[originally posted 5/2015]
My first born turned 27 years old this year. He stands six foot; three inches tall and his skin color varies with the season. He is a handsome man: half of me and half his father who is Mexican. He is his fathers son despite my bestowing upon him a name I hoped would shape him. A name that means, god•man.
He wears the features of his sire: same face, same expressions and if you read about my domestic violence history with my ex-husband; you will understand when I say; my sons temperament and lack of insight rivals that of his fathers.
He was never arrested as a juvenile, but he did have interaction with the police. I’m going to wager he had more dealings with the law than what was brought to my attention.
As a youth, he was in fights often. It wasn’t that he initiated combat; he just loved being where there was drama and excitement, which is where trouble typically lurks. Thus, he was associated with trouble and trouble became his reputation. His mark preceded him and his siblings. The Lopez kids. Teachers, principles, students knew them all, because they all knew my first born.
In school, he was in trouble regularly and I received a lot of phone calls from faculty. My son was brilliant; he had a lot of energy, and school bored him. He had trouble sitting still. Once or twice a month I would leave work to sit in his classroom. Of course he behaved while I was present. On one occasion, I was sitting in his 9th grade class and observed every student in the class out of control. The students did not know who I was, nor did they care; judging by the way they continued to act out, throw things and remain out of their seats. I was humored by my sons angelic behavior. I could tell he was usually part of the mayhem because the students were puzzled by his demeanor and repeatedly attempted to get him to engage. He just sat there; aware his mother was four seats behind him.
I was surprised when his teacher said, “See?! That’s what I’m talking about. He always does that.” She was referring to the way he tapped his pencil on the desk. I understood what she meant. He was restless. Some part of him was forever in motion.
His suspension record was lengthy and for a variety of infractions: fighting, cutting class, disrespect to faculty. I remember one of his high school principals called to inform me he was suspending my boy for calling him a “nigger.” It wasn’t quite like that, My boy said something to the effect of, ‘Why are you always on me nigga?’ which is still very much disrespectful, but different than a racist comment. Faculty did not care for my son. They watched him closely and suspended him whenever plausible and possible. He was suspended once for jaywalking. When school was out, my boy crossed the street while the light was red and was suspended. I had that suspension reversed.
His last suspension occurred when he was 18 years old; a high school senior. It was two weeks before graduation and the principal told me he did not want to suspend my boy, because if he did it would mean he wouldn’t be able to graduate with his class. My son and two other young men were caught with stolen yearbooks. The principal wanted my son to tell the truth about what he had done. Telling the truth and taking responsibility is something my son continues to struggle with. He never told the truth about stealing the yearbooks; even though a few were discovered in his backpack. The principal was saddened by this, but permitted him to graduate. The principal, a Latino man, said he did not feel right about holding my son back from graduating since the rate of high school dropouts continued to rise. His fear was my son would not return to finish, or if he did return he would continue accruing infractions and perhaps end up expelled. The principal did not want to chance it. So, we made it: made it into adulthood, made it through high school.
I spent a lot of time focused on my first born; which took attention away from my children who were doing well. I saw my eldest had the potential to do very well in life; or fail very well in life. He was failing. I tried to save him. I sought out the best high schools with the best athletic programs. First, I tightened my budget and put him in a private Christian School. We were not Religious and I didn’t know how I would pay for four years of private school, but my boy liked it. It wasn’t long before I started receiving calls from the school. My son had an issue wearing his uniform the way school policy required it to be worn. Either his shirt was untucked, he was sagging his pants or he took something that did not belong to him. After blatantly and constantly dismissing rules and authority, the school said my son could no longer attend. He lasted three months and cried when he was asked to leave.
I sent him to New York City to stay with my father for a while. My father works with young people. The thought was, my son would have a job with his grandfather; close guidance from a positive role model; he’d see different possibilities which would nurture the good in him. Instead, my boy did what he does. He looked past all the positive and found drug dealers to hang on the corner with. He was disrespectful to my father, which pained me, because my father tried to help him. My son was back home in two months.
After his return, I tried him in different charter schools but to no avail. The issues were always the same because he never changed. He was stuck. I received calls during grade school, throughout middle school and high school. Fighting, stealing and lying carried over into his adult life. There is a side of him that can be considered kind and giving. Perhaps the battle between his fathers genetics and my own.
His father is a sociopath. My son is the oldest and witnessed his fathers violence toward me and his siblings. For example, when I was eight months pregnant with my second son his father was beating me and trying to strangle me. I ran from the bedroom and grabbed the phone in the kitchen and called my mother for help. My then husband ripped the cord from the wall. He tackled me to the floor and drug me to a spot on the living room floor near the front door. He had me pinned to the floor and was gently speaking threats and disparaging remarks with a smile on his face as he sat on my my pregnant belly. When my mother arrived, he refused to get off me. My mother said,”I can see you sitting on her stomach through the opening of the curtain and you’d better get off of her. He did not. My mother threatened to use force. She’d brought her weapon. I screamed my sons name. He was four years old, crying and rubbing his eyes with his little fists. I gently told him to open the door for his grandmother. My son walked passed his father who sat atop me; got a step stool, carried it to the front door, stood on the stool and undid all the locks. As my son unlocked the door my husband released my wrists from his grip and sat up. He was sitting on my thighs and saw my pants had come off from being dragged along the carpet and said,”If I knew your pants were down I would have raped you.”
There were times my son would tell me what his father did to his siblings in my absence. He was a baby himself and I don’t believe he remembers; but I’m certain he remembers seeing his fathers abuse toward the girlfriends that came after me. I’m also certain the horrors he doesn’t remember, are singed into his subconscious and contributed to shaping the man he is today. That man is a lot like his father.
When my son was a junior in high school, I was contacted by an enraged mother who told me my boy had grabbed her daughter and shook her. Apparently, my son had become jealous after seeing text messages from another boy in the girls cell phone. I empathized with the girls mother and apologized. I asked her how she wanted to handle the situation. She said she wanted the apology to come from my son, and she wanted him to stay away from her daughter “for now.”
I spoke to my son many times about how abusing women is wrong. He said he understood. I suggested many things he could do besides being abusive. I told him not to ever expect that I would side with him just because he is my son. I told him I believe people should be held accountable for their choices and actions. I said,”I will help you improve if you want to improve. That’s it.” He gave me a hug and said,”Thanks mom.” My boy did not give me many issues inside the home; aside from bullying his siblings, lying and taking things that did not belong to him. He was usually respectful to me and when in my presence.
My son relates to his paternal side of the family, lots of drama, machismo, lying, acceptance of disrespect to women and because I work in a prison I often wonder how my son would fare if incarcerated where the Mexicans and Blacks are at war. They kill one another. They are enemies. I wonder which side he’d choose; because he would need to choose. I thought,’the blacks wouldn’t trust him.’ He has LOPEZ tattooed across his chest in huge letters as well as tattoos I think he believes are cool; but are actually insignias for dangerous Latino gangs. Marks that might get him killed in prison. I can only hope he doesn’t place himself in that predicament.
I knew it wasn’t good for children to live in a household where there was violence. It’s common sense; not rocket science. It was overwhelming for me as a young mother. I didn’t think I had the support or means to get my children to safety and maintain it. I was planning, but in the interim my children were being effected.
“Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children and telling them that their mother is “crazy” or “stupid” and that they do not have to listen to her. Seeing their mothers treated with enormous disrespect, teaches children that they can disrespect women the way their fathers do. Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They may replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences. Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships. Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.”
Antisocial personality disorder is a type of chronic mental condition in which a person’s ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are dysfunctional — and destructive. People with antisocial personality disorder typically have no regard for right and wrong and often disregard the rights, wishes and feelings of others.
Those with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others either harshly or with callous indifference. They may often violate the law, landing in frequent trouble, yet they show no guilt or remorse. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. These characteristics typically make people with antisocial personality disorder unable to fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.
Antisocial personality disorder signs and symptoms may include:
- Disregard for right and wrong
- Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
- Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or for sheer personal pleasure
- Intense egocentrism, sense of superiority and exhibitionism
- Recurring difficulties with the law
- Repeatedly violating the rights of others by the use of intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation
- Child abuse or neglect
- Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, impulsiveness, aggression or violence
- Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
- Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behaviors
- Poor or abusive relationships
- Irresponsible work behavior
- Failure to learn from the negative consequences of behavior
Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may begin in childhood and are fully evident for most people during their 20s and 30s. In children, cruelty to animals, bullying behavior, impulsivity or explosions of anger, social isolation, and poor school performance may be, in some cases, early signs of the disorder.
Although considered a lifelong disorder, some symptoms — particularly destructive and criminal behavior and the use of alcohol or drugs — may decrease over time, but it’s not clear whether this decrease is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior.
Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It’s the way people view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how they see themselves. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of these factors:
- Genetics. These inherited tendencies are aspects of a person’s personality passed on by parents, such as shyness or having a positive outlook. This is sometimes called temperament.
- Environment. This means the surroundings a person grows up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others. It includes such life situations as the type of parenting a person experienced, whether loving or abusive.
Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Some people may have genes that make them vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its development.
There may be a link between an early lack of empathy — understanding the perspectives and problems of others, including other children — and later onset of antisocial personality disorder. Identifying these personality problems early may help improve long-term outcomes.