I started to write this as an update on n’s struggle to come home now, and my struggle to trust him enough to assess his progress, but not to be pressured or conned. He is disappointed that I won’t let him come home right now. He is reacting by withdrawing and threatening to live on the street again.
As I thought about the last few days, I began to think about how his girlfriend may see him, and I thought of the fairy tale of the girl who finds a frog, trust him, kisses him and finds a handsome prince. The full story is of course more complex as folklore web sites here and here will show.
Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 17), n. came to see me after his classes. We had another discussion about his plans. He would like to come home now. I told him again he had to make some changes in his life before coming home. We talked about how he feels about Danielle. He has strong, sincere feelings, but he is needy, obsessive and controlling. He wants to see her when he wants to see her. He blames her parents for restricting her freedom to see him when he wants. He says they make her cry. He doesn’t see that she is crying when she is caught between his demands and theirs. He is angry at her parents and determined to beat their restrictions and see her on his terms.
He said he wanted to try to live on the street and to keep attending the TRY program. I offered to let him come home for a quick dinner. He agreed as long as he could get to St. Vital to meet his buddy Mark and hopefully to meet Danielle. He said he wanted to see Mark because he hasn’t seen him for a few days. Mark had been kicked out of parent’s house again but he thought that Mark’s parents would relent again. He hadn’t seen him for a few days. Mark is a heavy marijuana user, perhaps a small-time dealer. N. pretty much admits the first, doesn’t discuss the second. N. tells me that he still uses marijuana. He says his use is under control, and that he has no intention of giving up.
He called at 10:30 PM and said he had not found a place to stay. He said he thought the shelters would turn him away because he had a CFS placement. He said he would talk to the social worker on Thursday and check out the placement he offered on Tuesday. I let him come home for the night. He was complaining that Danielle’s parents had not let her go out at all that night, and that he had not been able to see her all day.
In the morning on Thursday I confirmed a plan that he would meet me at my office downtown after his classes ended so that we could shop for some winter boots and clothes, partly with a view to his coming hunting with me on Saturday. I said we would manage the hunting trip if I was able connect with him Friday evening or Saturday morning. I dropped him near the Convention Center. He was already late for class but he wasn’t concerned with that. He asked me for bus tickets. I asked why and he had a story about going out on the noon break. I said we were stopped in traffic in the wrong lane and I was not going to start digging in my pocket, and that we would talk about bus tickets after school. He said “Fuck you Leahy”.
He showed up at 3:00 PM and answered my first questions about the TRY program quickly. I asked him directly if he had attended morning and afternoon, and he admitted he had cut classes to go to St. Vital to find Danielle at school. She had dropped out of school a few weeks ago and had been readmitted this week. He said she had gone back into the school and that she had not cut classes. N. said he had cut classes in the morning and attended in the afternoon. He didn’t know about a power failure that had affected parts of downtown during the afternoon but I don’t know if the TRY program facilities were affected.
He was in a hurry to leave. I said he would have to wait while I finished some work and took a couple of calls. He pressured me to leave. He said he had to get to St. Vital to meet Mark and possibly to meet Danielle and he pushed the discussion. I gave him a couple of bus tickets and told him to leave. He left but came back. I said I had to get some work done and that I did not want to talk. He would not leave my office and he pressed a discussion about coming home immediately. He said he was refusing to go into a CFS placement and would either come home or live on the street.
I said he had not come any closer to coming home by lying, cutting classes and pressuring me. I said he had to manage the different parts of his life – school, Danielle, me, differently and he would have to do it outside my house and prove he could manage. He dismissed Danielle’s parents’ concerns and rules. He dismissed my concern that he was already testing my rules and had been dishonest and manipulative. He repeated his argument that he could only demonstrate that he was trustworthy if I trusted him and let him come home. When I disagreed with his arguments he said that I was stubborn and that I was keeping him out for the sake of winning the argument.
His arguments were good because they challenged me to trust him and bad because they showed that he was trying to control the situation with persuasion and rationalization instead of action. I have been worried that he is more focussed on getting home than on making changes, or on coming home without making changes in his attitude. He likes to see things as games and he likes to win. He wins if he comes home without making changes.
I began to hear his old rhetoric that rich people like me didn’t respect street kids like him because they prejudiced against their poverty, their appearance, their music, their drugs and their values. I don’t know how to make a dent in his thinking on that issue. He has a tight, coherent set of beliefs and he doesn’t want to discuss the facts. He isn’t disadvantaged because of his race or social class or by mental illness. He is disadvantaged because he has adopted an ideology that teaches him that someone outside himself is denying his happiness and because he will not face the question of his drug use. His ideology inspires him to present himself and to act in a way that inspires fear, resentment and anger.
He walked out, and I assume he got some support from his friends last night.
I checked with the TRY program today – Friday in the afternoon. They confirmed perfect attendance last week. This week he was present Monday, absent Tuesday morning, excused for the day on Wednesday when he was seen by teachers smoking from a pipe on the street outside the program office, absent Thursday morning, late on Friday morning. He told the case manager he was moving home. He was supposed to bring me some forms. He has been misleading me on a few issues, as he has been trying to get me to see that he can get it together if he could live at home. I can see things are starting to fall apart, although he can pull it together again if he tries. If he fails, he will blame his failure on the fact that I am not letting him live at home.
Today he has money in his pocket so he will be living high for a couple of days.
Danielle’s parents would be more comfortable with n. if he was at home, in school, and using the advantages of my social status. Danielle sees something different. She thinks she has found the prince in the frog. That may change, or she may get tired of trying to convince a disbelieving world that he is a prince when he keeps acting like a troll. N. may think she likes the frog, although I think n. is enchanted by the idea fact that Danielle likes him as he really is.
I’m comforted by the fact that she can see the prince, because I have seen too much of the frog. He seems to enjoy living with low expectations of being a frog, with his identity as prince safely hidden.