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DW says (in so many words) that she's disengaging from SS's college prep.

Toxic Situation's picture

A significant turning point: DW has told me that she’s withdrawing help and support for SS17 to get scholarships to the various out of state colleges he says he’s interested in. Reason is that although, according to DW, SS is “brilliant” (top 1% placement nationwide in math), he is not applying himself in other areas that would earn him a scholarship and that therefore, she’s done trying to help him (tutors, after-school programs, etc.). He can go to school in our state, and she is going to pick the cheapest one, because she’s not going to use her own money to pay for college costs that could have been covered by scholarships.

This was unusual to hear from DW. She said that the effort is not worth it and that the underlying reason is the skid’s bad attitude. I’ve told her this often, especially before I learned about disengaging. And, naturally, DW used to say that I was being “negative” and “mean.” One of the purposes of disengaging is not to stand between the bio-parent and their nasty entitled kid and to let them experience the full force of that nastiness, until they get fed up and draw a line in the sand.

As DW was talking, I had to restrain myself from saying things like, “Yes, and I’ve been telling you this a long time” and offering her advice.

I did “slip” at one point. She said, “It’s too bad. He’s intelligent, but he’s not using it,” and I said “Actually he does use his intelligence - to keep you under his thumb and to control you.” I quickly pulled back and let her keep talking, occasionally interjecting, “So, what are you thinking of doing then?” and “What do you have in mind?” as she supplied more details. (I might as well find out in detail what she's thinking. My comments are not going to change anything, they never have, due to her extreme veneration of her son, which includes defending him from all "negative" commentary, which of course, excludes me from a parental role.)

I said “So how long will this last before you let him off the hook?” (common pattern whenever she’s “had enough”). I was engaging again, so I stopped. She has to work this out herself.

It is significant, because DW always draws a line in the sand about her money. I can’t get her to lay her cards on the table enough to work out a household budget. If she had her way, she would not contribute a cent. So, I’m hoping she really means it when she says she’s not going to use her own money to pay for what a scholarship would have paid for. Time will tell. As author George K. Simon (author of several books on disturbed character traits - recommended reading for anyone dealing with entitled, manipulative people) says, “Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior." This is my go-to motto regarding SS17. With DW, well, I’m really going to be watching what she does. Thanks, StepTalk, for letting me vent.

fourbrats's picture

about him not applying himself, I would not assume that he would have received any academic scholarships. My oldest daughter was Valedictorian. 4.4 GPA, excellent test scores, tons of activities etc and did not get much in the way of academic scholarships and definitely not anything close to even half a ride. And forget about full rides. The two of them should pick the best state school for him that fits into the budget. Most schools give one full ride academic per year if that. Now if he were into sports or something he would likely get more in scholarships. It's a common misconception that even the brightest students get scholarships. And we saw the same thing happen with my son. He scored in the top 2% in all tests (SAT, ACT, even the ASVAB) and didn't see much in academic scholarships. 

This is just for information and to pass along to your wife. I am now on kiddo number three getting close to graduation and we are honestly pushing towards technical degree programs versus the traditional BA for cost purposes and because they offer more in terms of long term career success. 

Toxic Situation's picture

Best state school that fits the budget is the best. DW says it's his attitude and I agree. (She'd be willing to pay for lack of scholarships if he was speaking to her about working hard and promising to do well.) With SS17, it's all about the attitude, which is deep-dish nasty and entitled. The rest is peripherals, not that these things are not real either. In their enmeshed relationship, he is the passive-agressive sonsband and she is the verbally abused wife-mom. There is a lot going on here that is not about college, but it affects college.

And, although you are right, I don't want to tell DW that he might not have gotten the scholarships anyway despite his best efforts, because that might change her mind on funding. The core issue is, and always has been attitude. Nasty attitude all the way through the upcoming college years, no matther how many parental subsidies, support and help, can be expected. And if we take out college loans, the present behavior predicts that future behavior will be his defaulting on the loan and telling DW, "you're the one who wanted to take out the loans, not me, you deal with it, I never asked for a loan." I cannot put the whole backstory of SS17's behavior over the last ten years here, but I will say that the above potential situation would be consistent with what has been going on all along.

I do hope your kids do well. You sound involved in a good way.

fourbrats's picture

has enough attitude for all four kids and especially about school. She is a good kid and so intelligent but she is also academically lazy and a brat. 

I agree, don't tell her. I just didn't want her expecting it if he does start to apply himself. We were in shock when the kids were offered very little. I shouldn't have been. I also graduated at the top of my class and my brother, who came close to failing high school, was offered more in sports scholarships than I ever was for academics. 


Rags's picture

Your choice to vector  your youngest to a technical education (STEM) is one I arrived at for myself long before STEM was a thing. 

I was accepted to Princeton on early acceptance, received a few scholarships to various schools (one full ride that was 1/2 academic and 1/2 football) and ultimately spent 11 years completing my undergrad through 7 changes in major and attending 6 colleges or universities.  I was in school each semester for those 11 years. Not always full time but always in class. I graduated with more than 250 semester hours.  I started my own company, ran it for 5 years and worked for a few different companies during my undergrad adventure.   I was 20 semester hours away from completing a BA in Economics when I changed my major for the final time to Electronics Engineering sold my company and changed schools.  I transferred from a state school to a technical school, spent three more years knocking out my BSEEt and have had a great career for the past nearly 25 years since completing my undergrad the two weeks after I turned 30.  I had strong offers from 5 different companies before I graduated.  One other classmate had 5 offers (my younger bro) and we had one classmate who had 7 offers.

My younger brother chose to follow me to tech school after completing his freshman year of college at a JC.

We have both done very well though Mr C.O.O 6yrs younger bro certainly has outpaced me. I am very proud of him.

Good luck to your youngest. 

Survivingstephell's picture

Beware of putting any retirement dreams in jeopardy due to defaulted student loans.  You can't borrow for retirement.  College can derail a disney parent for the rest of their lives.  Don't partake in that folly and protect yourself from it.  

Any way to make it more painful for DW to feel more pain in dissappointed you over her son???  That's the way to get change to happen.  Good or bad.  

Toxic Situation's picture

Very well said: "College can derail a disney parent for the rest of their lives." Especially when said in the context of every being able to retire. 

As far as ways to stand out of the way between DW and SS17 so she feels the full brunt of it, I don't know. She is very used to it, tolerates it and has never moved to put an end to it in a meaningful or effective way. She will go to the ends of earth to support him (emotionally, or whatever) and that's why she's about 80% helpmate, 20% parent.

Meaningful changes that are coming are college, buying our own house, and other things. Someone once made the analogy of a horse with a bad leg that you might ride reasonably well at a walking pace, but when you break out into a gallop, riding the same horse is impossibly rough. The defect was there all along, but is only made evident in the new situation. We've got a huge situation and backstory here (the skid himself and the relationship between him and DW) and it's all going to be played out under these terms and conditions. The skid is not just going to go to school, launch and be gone, and we'll have our own house as empty nesters without having much, much trouble in between.

Toxic Situation's picture


I will try to learn more about that contribution account. Regardless, a state school is probably going to it. There are good state schools in our state.

"Earn It!: What to Do When Your Kid Needs an Entitlement Intervention." Love the title of that book. This is a "preaching to the choir book," but unfortunately, I'm the only one in the choir. I browsed the description of the book and there's a lot in there that looks useful, however, the time for an intervention in terms of setting household rules and values for a smaller child is long gone. At 17, he is "exactly the child he was raised to be" (as it says in one of the step parent manifestos somewhere).

DW (says) she wants to get him launched, including a drivers license and (now) state college. Some of these are the things that are making DW have to deal in a more real-world way with SS17.

DW has read parts of Stepmonster (one of my many unsuccessful attempts to get her to see the situation from another viewpoint than the rose-colored glasses of Disney parenting) and other than her saying "so I can see what the other side thinks" and "there are a few good points in here," it really didn't change things. I'm really the one driven to intervene in the situation, because I'm the one negatively affected by it. SS17 loves it just the way it is, so he hasn't put out effort to change, and it wouldn't go on if DW was not an accomplice and an enabler. But as I said, some of the things coming up are going to force changes to happen one way or another.

SacrificialLamb's picture

My own son was very smart but did not apply himself. Did horrible his first year of college. He floundered until I told him he had to pay his own way up front, and if he got above a 3.0 GPA I would pay him back. He was not very happy that suddenly he was accountable for his own results, and shame on me for investing so much effort myself in HIS future academics. 

He finally realized he was an adult, applied himself, got a 3.7 GPA the rest of the way, got a great job and is now 1 year away from a Masters degree.

Your wife needs to realize her job is teach the child to be an adult.  A lot of us have that problem, but it should not affect your marriage.

TwoOfUs's picture

I love this idea. 

DH's parents did something similar with SS. His schooling was mostly covered by scholarships, and he's working for his own food, gas, and entertainment...but housing in the area can be pricey. DH's parents rented him an apartment upfront but know he's not been great about finishing things. They've told him that it's a loan...if he finishes the program, they forgive it, if he doesn't, he has to pay them back. 

So far, he's been on the Dean's List every quarter. 

TwoOfUs's picture

We essentially disengaged together concerning YSD's college plans when she refused to consider any school except a major party school where a somewhat emotionally abusive ex of hers who she's still obsessed with way are we paying for that. 

She refused to come up with a Plan B. So now she's staying home for a year. We're ready to help her and give her advice when she's ready...but I don't see that happening anytime soon. 

But yes. The sheer entitledness is breathtaking sometime. Pay for this 40K a year school that I want to go to...even though I've done zero comparison shopping, haven't picked a major, don't know if the school has a good program for what I want to do...etc. Just insanity.