In Treatment 2 -- Oliver, week 6

Bess and Oliver are in the waiting room. Luke arrives. He and Bess trade barbs. Paul invites them in but Luke says he and Bess need to talk with him first. Oliver is  not happy about this.

Luke and Bess sit far from each other. Luke reports that Bess called and told him she is moving upstate. Bess says she got a job offer. She has an opportunity to adjunct at Bard College but did not tell Luke until she made all the arrangements. Paul confronts Bess with the problem of not having talked with Luke about it. He asks her why this job is so important to her. She says it is a chance to get an inside track on getting a fellowship to complete her degree. Paul says it is a huge change for Oliver. Luke suspects she wants full custody of Oliver but Bess wants him to stay in the city and live with Luke. Bess thinks the best plan is for Oliver to live with Luke until June and then they can see where to go from there. Paul says this is a huge change from not wanting Oliver to stay one night with Luke to wanting him to live with him. Bess tries to make Oliver's best interests her reason. Luke says it is impossible for him to take him on full time because they can't get along. They are now fighting over who has to take care of Oliver. Paul points out that neither of them wants to take care of Oliver right now. They fall silent. He tells them they have to figure out a way to look after their son. Paul reiterates that they need to find a compromise. Luke suggests Oliver stay with Bess during the week and take the train to the city weekends. Bess thinks he is too young to go on the train by himself. Paul tells them it is potentially harmful to Oliver to uproot him. Paul keeps pushing them to think about it but Bess and Luke want to tell Oliver right now, They refuse to take time to think it through.

Paul calls Oliver in. He is reluctant to come in. Luke moves to the couch and Oliver sits between them.

Bess tells Oliver that they have good news and she tells him she has gotten a job. Oliver  looks very unhappy. Luke tries to convince him it is a good change. Oliver asks who will live in their apartment and expresses concern over someone else living in his room. Paul asks Oliver what he wants to say and Oliver forcefully says he does not want to go. He tells is father he doesn't care what Oliver thinks. Paul lets Oliver know it is a lot for him. Bess wants Luke to move into their apartment. Oliver says he can't live with his dad because he gets drunk. Luke and Bess start bickering. Paul tells them to stop fighting because they need to take care of Oliver. Oliver yells Fuck You! and runs out. He is on a swing in a park when Paul, Luke and Bess arrive.

Oliver asks to speak alone with Paul. He asks Paul where he is going to live. He says his mother and father don't want him. Oliver says if he were gone, his mother could go start her job and his father could live alone and be happy. Paul tells him that his parents love him very much. He asks him to tell him all the things that make him happy and comfortable. He tells Paul he is comfortable in his office and he likes talking with him. Then he asks if he can live with him. Paul says that sounds like a good idea but he can't come and live with Paul. He has parents of his own. Oliver says he likes Paul better. Paul says he can come visit him any time. Oliver says Paul doesn't want him either. Paul tells him he is happy that Oliver likes to talk with him. Oliver says he is going to talk with his parents alone, that he knows he is moving and will never see Paul again, despite that Paul says he will always be there as his friend.

This week we, and Oliver sadly, must deal with the fact that neither parent wants to take care of him. It maybe a fine point, but this does not actually equate to neither of them loving him, only that neither wants to carry the responsibility of his care. As happens more than once in a while, divorce sets the adults back into the place in their lives they were when they were last single. And for Luke and Bess this was on the cusp of having adult lives -- living alone, pursuing work, being responsible only for themselves. That is where they were when Bess got pregnant and all of that young adult life got cut short as they took on being married and stereotypic roles. Now the marriage is over and they want to get back what they each lost. But they have a child and so now comes the struggle over who will be the adult, set aside personal desires, and care for him. None of this is Oliver's doing and he can do very little to change any of it. He truly is a pawn in their lives. And right now it does not appear that either of them is willing to consider what they are doing, to take the time to reflect on options and their responsibilities. Bess failed to start talking with Luke about her plans until it was too late for him to be able to persuade her to not take the job -- because she knew he would appeal to her sense of responsibility and she, having tasted what it is like to have only herself to care for, does not want to be a full-time mother now or perhaps ever again. It is not the feelings that Luke and Bess have, not their wishes that they could reboot their lives and be fully separate and without the responsibility for Oliver, but their lack of will or desire to explore those feelings and work to arrive at a solution that is a good compromise and in the best interests of their child. It seems unlikely that Paul will be able to persuade them to do this.

So here Paul runs hard into the basic frustration of working with kids -- their parents. Because right now, Oliver's problem is his parents and he is powerless to do anything about them, except by acting out or even worse, acting in and taking it out on himself, as he has with his not eating.

Oliver wants Paul to take over being his parent. He knows Paul cares about him and listens to him. Here Paul runs into another frustration of working with children -- he cannot take over caring for this child and give him the parent he wants and needs. This is painful for Oliver and for Paul. And is a conflict that Paul has to contain. He needs to allow Oliver his anger at him for not stepping in to be his parent. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.