There were two versions of M living in our house in the months leading up to the military academy. The ugly version was a bully. He bullied his brother, K, and I think he bullied me too. It’s strange to think of your son as someone who bullies you around, but if bullies are people who are quarrelsome, overbearing, and intimidating, then yes…he bullied me around.
The bully was exhausting. If you caught him in a lie, the bully would turn it around to make you question your own common sense. If you caught him doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing, he would look at you and say he wasn’t doing it. The bully was a master of manipulation.
But sometimes the bully took a respite, and he would be quiet…not kind, just quiet. During this “quiet time,” we were sometimes able to squeeze in a pleasant meal at the dining room table. Occasionally we were able to carry on a conversation, but these conversations usually ended quickly, and one side usually turned away sad or frustrated.
K always confused this “quiet time” with kindness. He would announce during these quiet times, “M is being so nice to me, mom.” I would turn to him with a smile and say, “Of course he’s being nice to you; he loves you.”
Then I probably confused K even further by saying to M, “Thank you for being so nice to your brother.”
I was sounding pathetic as I tried so hard to make the abnormal, normal. And common-sense parenting was no longer applicable around our house. Substance abuse changes everything.