Help! Mom is a dictator

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My brother and I are abusing cannabis and other drugs. We know we need help. How can we help our father take charge of our home? He seems scared of her.

We will assume that you are in your late teens or early 20s. There are three issues that seem to be at play. The first has to do with what amounts to a weak man of the house and the other a strong and dominating mother. The third is that you and your brother are using drugs, perhaps to help you deal with the stress in the family.

Yours is primarily a marital/family problem between your parents. The two of you are collateral damage as the two bulls square it out in their marriage. Sadly, no easy solutions come to mind. Some possibilities include to either address your parents on how their relationship is making you and your brother feel or in the alternative you might talk to an uncle or aunt that you trust, and who your parents might listen to. Sometimes a grandfather could play a similar role.

Several years ago, we saw a young man in a similar situation. He had been arrested for possession of cannabis. Looking at him, the police officer concluded that the young man needed the help of a medical specialist. That was one of the earliest referrals from police stations to us.

We asked for the parents of the young man to come. The very loud-speaking mother drove very fast into the hospital in a pickup truck full of potatoes. Before any questions could be put to her, she pulled out a kiboko (whip) and asked us to show her where the spineless brut of a boy had been kept. To her, all the lazy boy needed was a few whiplashes, and he would soon be on the straight and narrow.

Told that this treatment was not recommended in this day and age, she drove out in a rage complaining that this sort of softy approach belonged to white American people and all men must have grit and take control of their lives.

She had no time for people like his father who could not stand up for themselves. She stated that she would not come back unless we allowed her to do what had worked for her father who used to drink too much. He was beaten almost to death by his mother, after which he did not touch another drink.

When the young man’s father arrived later that day, it was impossible to believe that he was the husband of the tigress that had rocked the entire hospital earlier that day. He was a little man, who wore clothes that had not been washed recently, and had a copy of the much-used holy Bible in one hand and a copy of a newspaper from the previous day.

He looked hungry and when he spoke, it was in a soft apologetic voice that essentially told us he needed as much help as his son, now well-sedated in his room.

For several minutes, the little man prayed. The prayer was not only for his now lost son who God must convert like the biblical prodigal son, but also for his wife. She was friends with the butcher’s son and this was shameful. Those present learnt a great deal about the family during this seemingly endless prayer. He continued.

The devil had first made himself manifest in his family through his wife who lost her way soon after marriage. She had damaged his male ego and like Samson of the Bible all his strength and confidence were lost. She would often ridicule his weak manhood even in public. He had turned to the church where he served as the head of the men’s fellowship, was in the choir, and was chair of both the building and fundraising committees.

To the world he was an exceptional leader, to his wife and family he was a spineless irritating father and husband. He had left all the “manly” duties including bringing up the boys as well as their discipline to their mother.

Through this single unsolicited prayer session, we learnt a great deal regarding the family dynamics. Like the biblical seeds that had fallen among the thorns, the children had been left to grow without parental care or supervision, as the mother made money at the market, and the father prayed.

Many months of family therapy failed to bring the couple back together but at least the boy went back to school.

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