After Husband came home from spending time with Trouble a last night, we had a short but meaningful talk about why all of this is continuing and whether or not we felt there was anything more we could do about it. I had an epiphany, which I shared with Husband, which stems from this question: What are Trouble/The Witch/Husband and Stepped gaining from all of this? I remember Dr. Phil asking people that question on his show. He always wanted them to think about what their payoff was for whatever their issue was at the time.
Stepped: Control of my house. The adults run the show again and life is functioning much better.
Husband: Nothing. He is miserable.
The Witch: Validation that we are terrible, and she is a fabulous mother. Control over Husband.
Trouble: Constant attention from his mom.
He is the middle child, who is typically left out. The oldest is a girl, so mom does girl things with her very regularly, and the youngest is only two, so his basic needs warrant a lot of attention. Trouble... he rarely received any attention.
Husband and I used to talk about that and worried about him because his mom neglected him, even if she didn't mean to and I'm not saying that she did. I'm sure she never even noticed.
Now, The Witch talks to him every day about how he feels and if he's okay. She's been taking nightly walks with him around the neighborhood. She even got him into tutoring. (It's about time! The boy is 14 and still can't read. Hello. That is not normal. We've tried to work with her on this before, but that is another discussion.) They have been watching movies together regularly. She's been taking all of her kids out to do activities, where she only dropped off "Perfect" and Trouble in the past for them to do their own thing. They hang out now and are "buddies".
When he was acting up here, causing all kinds of problems, running away and playing an innocent victim, he got him mom's undivided attention. She came to his rescue each and every time. But it didn't stop there. She would sit with him and talk to him once they were home. Then the next time he came over here, she would call him and text him constantly throughout the day to check on him to make sure he was okay. She worried about him, and focused on him a whole lot more than she did for the first few years of our marriage when she was pregnant and had a newborn.
I wish Husband and I had noticed this before. Trouble needed attention from him mom!!
We thought Trouble was acting out because he wanted to hang with friends and get his way. But he isn't hanging with his friends when he's at his mom's house. And according to The Witch, he has no problem putting away his phone for dinner, when they are doing things as a family or at any time his mom asks him to put it away. He isn't even asking her to do all of the things that he's been fighting with us about. It never made sense to us why Trouble would get explosively angry over the simplest requests.
Now it makes so much more sense. When he has issues with his dad, and especially with me, he gets loads of attention from his mom. If he moves on from all of this drama, he will also be giving up his mom, and he is not going to do that.
Dr. Phil, you are so wise.