Raising children is tough, and teaching them right from wrong is sometimes one of the hardest tasks. But despite their efforts, not all parents are blessed with upstanding and responsible, let alone good intentioned, offspring. Parents, and even siblings of unruly people, share stories of loved ones they were forced to disown, and what led to cutting ties. Content has been edited for clarity.
“We adopted a 3 year old from foster care. Cutest, sweetest kid. He had a few issues, but we mostly figured it was because of his history. The issues escalated quickly. When he was 7, he hit our dog with a golf club. We had to keep him away from our dog and our cat. The cat disappeared – we assumed she got out and ran away. Found out years later that he killed it and threw it in the woods. The last straw was when he burned our home down.
We finally sent him to a residential treatment center where he stayed for 2 years. During that time, he inappropriately touched a roommate and became extremely violent. The insurance company told us that they wouldn’t pay anymore and we’d either have to pay for him out of pocket ($40k a month) or bring him home. We have younger children and it wouldn’t be safe. We ended up telling the state we wouldn’t bring him home. So now we have a verified abuse report against us because we wouldn’t bring him back (even though the therapists agreed with our decision). I don’t love him. I wish the best for him, but I don’t feel anything toward him.”
They Hope He Can Be Happy
“I wouldn’t say I’ve disowned or stopped loving my son, but it’s real tough to find love for him. He’s almost 14 (next month) and he’s currently out of our home at a treatment facility. He’s averaged two arrests a year for the last two years, and he’s attacked my wife several times, our daughters several times, and the neighborhood kids several times. He’s run away from school, run away from home, and tried to push me off the roof of our house (after threatening to jump off and hurt himself). We have become ‘that family’ in our town where the police are called to our home on a semi-regular basis. He’s been getting more violent as he gets older (not to mention bigger and stronger) and I honestly don’t see an end in sight.
The key fact I’m leaving out is that he’s been diagnosed as high functioning autistic and is also bipolar. That’s like putting walls around a tornado and expecting it to stay inside the walls. A lot of what has occurred he had little control over because of the way his mind is (where he’s constantly at war with himself, structure versus chaos), and my wife and I have tried desperately to give him the best life we can while keeping ourselves and our daughters safe, but I’m tired. It’s been 8 and a half years we’ve been going through this with him and I’ve been ready to throw in the towel on him for a while. But my wife refuses to let him go, so we wake up every morning trying to give him the best life for him and our girls.
We’ve got hope that he’ll ‘normalize’ so to speak after he gets through puberty, and we’ve heard of numerous success stories when individuals got older, as they say — sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. I’m just really, really hoping he can have a happy adulthood.”
“My parents disowned my oldest sister. She always struggled growing up more than us (she became a teen mom with a bad older dude, partied a lot, etc), but my parents helped her a lot. They do okay for themselves, but had a no-co-signing rule for all six of my siblings and I. Still, they co-signed for her house so she could get a head start.
She didn’t pay the mortgage for almost 3 years before my mom got served in front of all the other nurses at her work.
My parents worked tirelessly to try to work out deals where my sister and her family kept the house and got some leniency, but to no avail because my sister never showed up for court dates. During this time, my sister paid $12k for IVF and got pregnant with her fifth kid.
When my mom demanded some of the money back, she accused my dad and my brother of beating her sons when my parents took them to Disney World (they didn’t) and said she’d file a police report if they asked for money again. They kept asking, cause it wasn’t true.
She awkwardly joined us for Christmas and punched my brother in the face during the meal for ‘humiliating’ her oldest son by asking him if he wanted to work at my brother’s company for good pay. Her oldest son is in and out of jail, and my brother was trying to help him after his release, but her son said he didn’t want a job and got mad. She then called the cops and told them the same brother had illegal weapons in his truck, and they came on Christmas night and searched his truck (no weapons found!)
Needless to say, she is not welcome anywhere near any of us and my mom still cries about it, but refuses to talk to her again.”
Laundry List Of Things
“I was a kid and my sister was much older when my parents were finally done with her. From my recollection, she went through the cycle of making one stupid decision after another, even when they would tell her and show her why she shouldn’t make that decision.
There were a whole raft of other things, too, including forgetting to pick up her grandmother from doctor’s appointments, generally loathing the existence of the rest of her family, and, then, ironically, deriding the family as ‘rednecks’ when she finally managed to hook a guy who was a small business owner and actually had some money.
Anyhoo, it’s been about twenty years since I’ve spoken to her, and, from the stuff I hear now and again through the pipeline, I’m better for it. I do expect her to come calling when my parents pass and she finds out I’m the sole heir.”
Car breaks down again, for good, so she calls and asks our parents if they can buy a new one for her. Not ‘new’ as in ‘new to her.’ ‘New’ as in ‘brand new model year.’ My parents’ newest car was fifteen years old at the time. They say no, and not to call again.
Two months later, she asks to move back in because her roommate and best friend kicked her out. Parents say no, she’s on her own unless she wants to go to college or get a job and keep it
Eventually, she is told to: pay rent, go to college, or move out. She chooses to move out, and is gone by the end of the week. I clearly remember her threatening to burn the house down as she left.
During this time, she dates a number of less-than-stellar boyfriends, including a guy who is 30 years older (but drives a Porsche), a guy who had been convicted of violating a woman, and another guy who generally creeps everyone out by jumping the fence and just standing in the backyard at all hours of the night.
She goes on a semi hunger-strike about the bedroom. Turns out she was shoplifting and stockpiling candy to eat so she wouldn’t have to eat with the rest of the family.
Parents say no, she threatens to move out.
Moves back in three months later. Upset that I have moved into her old bedroom (which is bigger), demands to be moved back into the bigger bedroom.
Moves out with no car and no job, accusing parents of controlling her life.
Lo and behold, old car breaks down almost immediately and she simply stops showing up to work, gets fired.
Parents come home one day to find strange car in driveway: a Sunbird. It was old and rundown, but it was a 1:1 trade my sister managed to swing on the station wagon.
Parents bailed her out again, buying her what they could afford on one salary: a decent, used station wagon. Only catch: she take the job my dad called in favors for.
Let car run out of oil, kept driving it until the engine seized up.
Dropped out of college (they were paying for) and used the tuition money she was refunded to buy a Firebird, then quit her job.
“Living With Him Was A Nightmare”
“My older brother was disowned. He has been a petty crook as long as I could remember, into hard substances since his pre-teens, and pretty much a full-blown sociopath.
He treated every girl in his life like meat. And I remember him as a teenager calling his girlfriend names and because she didn’t want to blow him. When he knocked some chick up years later, he had a daughter, and one of the first things out of his mouth in the hospital after her birth was ‘she’s gonna grow up and put out easily like her mom.’ Let’s just say that child is better off not having him as a father figure (she’s been adopted since then and is living a happy childhood last time I checked).
He treated my parents like trash. He would be in and out of jail and they would take him in whenever he was out. Then he’d find a job, lose it, and go back to jail. Rinse and repeat. He would get in physical fights with my mom, dad, me, he’d kick our dogs, cats, etc. We’d have to get new drywall to replace the holes he punched through those walls. He’d have freak outs and smash things all around the house. Living with him was a nightmare.
The last straw was him walking out on his kid and her mother, and starting a gang fight at our house over an deal gone wrong. Things got really violent and I’m pretty sure weapons were involved. He left the house, and on that very same night, he came back because he needed a place to stay. When my dad said no, he started fighting my dad. I stepped in at that point and almost beat the living daylights out of him (no one messes with my dad, no one). It ended with my dad having to hold me down to stop me from killing him, and my brother walking away down the street yelling obscenities. Haven’t seen him since. This was 6 years ago.
At this point, he’s either in jail or dead. I may have every reason in the world to hate him for everything he’s done, but I don’t. He’s a tortured soul who has let his demons get the absolute best of him, plain and simple. I just hope that he finds some kind of peace, even if it takes death for him to do so.”
“Relieved She Wants No Contact”
“OK. I am a parent. I have 4 grown children. One of my children (I’ll call her Amber) has mental health problems. I would say that her behaviour makes it very difficult to love her. Her siblings want nothing to do with her. But Amber thinks she is perfectly sane and everyone else in the family is crazy and evil. She also thinks she is superior to us all and will one day be rich and famous. (she is currently on welfare–no one else in the family has ever been on welfare).
The other day she came over to our house. She sat down and spent about 30 minutes telling us that we had starved and abused her when she was a child (NOT true). That we are horrible people. And she claims that her father abused her (NOT true). She told me (I’m her mother) that I am perverted (and worse) because I blew a kiss to my 3 year old grandchild. Amber has 3 children and claims we (the family) have abused them (NOT true). We love these 3 girls very much, but currently Amber will not let us see them and is probably telling them bad things about us. It is heartbreaking. After Amber had yelled at us for awhile, she told us that if we don’t confess to the abuse we have done, then we may have no contact with her or her children. On her way out, she grabbed a bottle of our single-malt and said it was not fair that we had a bunch of expensive drinks when she didn’t (my husband collects different types, and drinks them moderately). So, she took the bottle. During this visit we noticed that Amber has lost a LOT of weight and looks almost anorexic.
Amber also accused her husband of being a child abuser, and forced him to ‘confessing’ to having thoughts of touching children. Because Amber is involved with social services they found out about Amber’s accusations, and her husband was unable to be alone with his kids for about a year, until he convinced them he was not what she claimed.
Amber has been hospitalized once for mental problems, but never got diagnosed. Her children were put in a foster home for 3 months because she was physically attacking her husband (hitting, scratching, etc in front of the kids). We were able to get the kids back but it took a $5,000 legal bill and 3 months. And there is so much more craziness. She has currently started having a relationship with a man who lives near her. By the way, her husband is still with her. Apparently the man from down the street is also staying with them and the kids. We are just praying she is using birth control. She seems to get especially crazy after having a baby, though her youngest is currently 2.
She also asserts that both my husband and I were abused by our fathers (NOT true). She claims there is a family curse, and seems to really believe it.
She sent us a text message last night reiterating the ‘no contact’ unless we confess. And at this point we are quite relieved that she wants no contact. Her disgusting accusations have cast a pall over our love for her, and even our love for her children. We feel we need to withdraw from her family completely to avoid any more pain, but we would be there to help our grandkids in a heartbeat if there was an opportunity.”
Lie After Lie
“This happened to my brother. It’s a long story but I’m honestly glad he’s not in my family’s life anymore.
One day he decided to move to Virginia and told my mom he was going to college. He said he passed the BAR exam and got into William and Mary. He said he graduated and sent my mom a fake degree and everything. She didn’t find out he ‘graduated’ until he sent her his fake degree. She was so proud and mounted it on the living room wall. Then one of his ex girlfriends called saying that he owed her money and when my mom started to ask her questions she found out it was all a lie. They didn’t disown him then, they asked him to come home and get help, and he did. For a while.
He seemed to get his life together and got a wife and got married. There were a couple of odd things he told his wife about our family. One example is that he told his wife that my parents had gotten too smashed to be at his graduation and they had to be taken out. He also lied about graduating to his wife.
So, he moved to Texas with his wife and they had a baby. One day his wife received a letter in the mail saying that their house was being foreclosed on. He had been taking the money for their mortgage and spending it on god knows what. We never found out what happened.
My dad passed away a few years afterwards and he didn’t even have the guts to show up to his funeral. My mom cannot have contact with her granddaughter even though she disowned my brother. So it wasn’t a difficult decision for my mom to make. She was more torn up about not being able to see her granddaughter.”
It Just Kept Getting Worse And Worse
“I raised my sister for several years. I was a senior in high school when my parents had my sister – completely unexpected. They were 58 and 55. I never really got to know her much as I went away to college when she was 5 months old, and was in the Air Force by the time she was 1 1/2. I saw her twice on leave, and got pics, but the way life was working out we never really got time together.
Fast forward, our dad dies when she is 2, and my stepmother is raising her. She was a terrible parent, like the kind that saw one of her kids run away at 16 to halfway across the country, another runaway at 15 and get married, and one that is just a loon who spent his life bouncing around whatever hot multi-level marketing program was out there as a career. She also convinced my dad to send me to a pray away the gay camp in Tennessee, when I was 15. So when my sister was 11 and begging for help, I took leave and went to her. Surprisingly, my stepmonster was happy to get attorneys to draw up the paperwork for me to become my sister’s guardian, and even pay for it.
So I’m raising my sister and things are okay until she is about 14. Then I caught her doing these videos online, talking dirty trying to get guys to wack off. So that was a mess of trying to get those down and suing the people that hired her to do them.
She ran away for a week, hiding out at a friend’s house, and I only found her when she was caught shoplifting. Then she got a breaking and entering charge at 14, trying to steal the phone of a boy she was dating to see if he was talking to other girls. It happened on base and I managed to talk it out of being a bigger thing. A second breaking and entering charge with her and her friends breaking into the military club to try to steal drinks. I was told I had to leave base housing at that point, my security clearance was suspended to make sure she wasn’t putting me in a position I could be compromised. Still only 14, she was arrested with a stolen military ID trying to get into a bar. At 15, she escapes rehab. Also at 15, escapes rehab again. When she turned 16, things seemed good and she was taking school seriously.
At 18, she was accepted to Rhode Island School of Design, graduated with honors, and had an actual decent paying job with a web company with benefits and everything. But then, she started getting stoned a lot and lost her job. Sold her car to pay bills. Lost her apartment, still hadn’t bothered looking for work. Got her trust fund at 24, blew over $400k in two years with nothing to show for it. Had multiple cases against her for illegal substances. Was restricted to the state, but decided to go follow Phish around anyway and sell Molly. Got picked up for hooking and possession out of state, was returned to Rhode Island where she was detained and somehow released pending trial yet again. While awaiting trial, she was caught holding enough packaged substances to qualify as a distribution charge. By then, I hadn’t heard from her for almost 7 years, and only managed to keep up with her reading the police blotter or from the occasional attorney that she had contact me to verify I would pick up her legal tab – I wouldn’t.
Against any logic, she was out of prison in under three years. I heard she snitched a bunch of people out to make it happen. She showed up at my house, asking for a place to stay. I said I couldn’t have her in my house, but I’d get her a place for the night and then help her locate a place of her own. That night, she broke into my house, nearly got shot by me while doing it, and tried to spin some story that she was looking for something she dropped in my house earlier that day, despite never actually entering my house. I told her she had to go, she threatened she would call Department of Child Family Services, and tell them I was abusing my kids if I didn’t go with her to an ATM and give her all the money I could withdraw. Told her to GET OUT before I exercised the castle defense law and dropped her.
I took out a restraining order the next day, and in doing so found she once again left state when she wasn’t supposed to have and violated her parole, so back to the clink. Since then she’s been dead to me.”
“I’m Sorry For Inflicting Him On The World”
“This Saturday, my son will have been sober for 18 months. He got his GED this year, and he starts at Community College at the end of August. He finally has a job that I didn’t get for him, soon he will be moving into his own apartment, and he hasn’t missed a single appointment with his therapist. He has done everything you would expect of a precocious 17-year-old who hit a rough patch after meeting with a particularly bad influence. He is 29.
This is the point where I’m supposed to say that, nevertheless, I’m still proud of him for turning his life around, getting off certain substances and off the streets, staying out of trouble, and acting like a responsible adult, or at least an adult who knows the meaning of ‘responsible.’ Maybe I’ll throw in a reference to the Prodigal Son and kill a fatted calf for him. That’s certainly what’s expected of me. That’s certainly what my son expects of me. He demands praise and forgiveness and a party, and me to hug him and tell him it’s all right. Demands me to tell him how proud I am that he’s made something of himself. But I’m not, because he hasn’t. Not in the slightest.
His mother and I gave him every opportunity we could. I don’t expect any praise for that, because unlike my son, I don’t expect praise for doing what you’re supposed to. She and I worked hard to give him a loving, stable, comfortable, supportive home. We were involved in his school, we introduced him to music (to the extent that any two people can; his mother was a great cellist, though) and sports and culture, we fed him healthy meals, we played with him–thanks to him, we got in the best shape we’d ever been in since our 20s–and we let him stumble and fall and make mistakes and get back up again.
He started shoplifting at 15. The first time we caught him, we bodily dragged him back to the store, made him return the copy of Grand Theft Auto and apologize, and offered to pay for any damages. The second time we caught him (this time with a pair of shoes), we did the same thing. The third time, we started going to family therapy.
Therapy seemed to go well, and after a few sessions the therapist asked for a few one-on-one meetings with him. After two of those, the police came knocking on our door, because he had concocted some story about how we were a religious cult who assaulted him for breakfast every Saturday- and the dumb idiot therapist actually believed him. Rational heads prevailed, we fired that therapist, and he went through six more in as many months, until eventually we couldn’t find anyone who would take him as a patient.
By 16, he was drinking. Then we found pot in his bedroom, and in our bedroom. He started leaving needles, paraphernalia, and pipes where he knew we’d eventually find them, just to mess with us. I know this because he said so. He had his first intervention and first trip to rehab that year, and his first relapse.
He had to repeat a year of high school at 17, which meant he was now the ringleader of a group of other young idiots, who saw him as this totemic mentor-shaman who could hook them up with whatever stuff they wanted. I’m also sure he started sleeping with one of his friends’ younger sister (13) around then, but I had nothing to go on but my own instincts, so all I could do was tell her parents to keep an eye on her. No charges were ever pressed, and the family never spoke to me again after that, but they did pull both of their kids out of that school, and my son was furious at me for daring to not let him continue doing what he was doing. But he decided to try for something worse later on.
While I was away, he spent an uncharacteristic night at home and on his best behavior. After his mother went to sleep, he followed her to her bedroom. He took a knife with him. He crept into the room, straddled her, put the blade to her throat, and slid his other hand inside her.
I don’t know exactly what happened next. I know he held her down and tried to undress her. I know she fought. I know he stabbed her. I know she got away and locked herself in the bathroom before he could catch her; I hope that means she kicked him good in the balls. I know she broke the window and screamed for help. I know he ran. I know she was lucky the ambulance got to her before she bled to death. I know he called his friends to brag and beg a ride. I know the police caught him. I know if I’d been home, or if I’d caught him, I’d have killed him with my bare hands.
The state tried my son as an adult. He pled out, but only after making his mother testify and smiling the whole time. She divorced me a month after his sentencing; I looked too much like him. And she killed herself a year later.
I would be a liar if I said I didn’t blame him for her death, because I absolutely do. He was sober when she went to her room, sober when he pulled out his knife, sober when he climbed on top of her, sober when he physically assaulted her, sober when he stabbed her, sober when he ran, sober when he called his friends to brag, and sober when the police found him. When I made the mistake of visiting him after the divorce, he laughed and said she’d had enough of him, and that I could never satisfy her. When I made the mistake of visiting him after she killed herself, he laughed again and asked how it felt to have ‘some prick take your woman away.’ I should have killed him right there. It is to my eternal shame that I did not.
They let him out after serving three years. He spent the next six years on the streets, in and out of rehab, on and off other people’s couches, and would grace me every six months or so with a phone call demanding money. Eventually I refused to talk to him unless it was to drive him back to rehab, and I stopped completely after he stole my wallet.
Two years ago, he came to my house with his aunt (his mother’s sister) in tow and crocodile tears in his eyes. He pretended to apologize. I slammed the door. His aunt barges in to try to shame me into forgiving the man who basically killed my wife, and laughed about it; he stayed outside. He slashed my tires, threw a brick through a window, and drove off in her car. His aunt had no idea that he’d taken her keys, or that he’d been armed the whole time. So, she blamed me.
He guilted her into letting him stay with her, went to rehab and relapsed, then went again, and here we are.
In stark contrast to the terrible things that my son has done, I have watched my friends’ and colleagues’ (those who will still talk to me, that is) children go on to become doctors, lawyers, skilled tradesmen, actors and musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, and career military. I’ve seen a few start their own families. And even the ones who’ve had a rough start, or who stumbled and fell, managed to pick themselves up again, or are bravely soldiering on. I have nothing but respect for them. I also note that they do not expect anything for having a job and not getting hopped up on crystal, or doing the unthinkable to their mothers for 18 whole months.
My son has pretended to reform before. He has even convinced himself once or twice. But he always backslides, always relapses, always finds new ways to disappoint, and always hurts other people for his own short-sighted benefit. His aunt is already at the stage where she is pretending she ‘must have forgotten’ where she put some knickknack or piece of jewelry, and has already told me to fly a kite after I’ve warned her of what my son can, will, and has done before, and what he will do again now that he thinks she is weak. When he royally messes up again, when he hurts someone else with his ceaseless lies, I will not be there to pick up after him. I am through with him. I am through with his aunt. I cannot talk to her without being overcome with rage and shame as I see the stupid, stupid hope I used to have that my son would ever amount to anything, and I do not need any more disappointment and failure in my life.
I am not proud of my son. And I am sorry for inflicting him upon the world.