Child Caught in the Middle: Whole Family

Seeking Answers

While Dr. Phil has his one-on-one conversation with Matthew, Cathie and Ron listen in from the stage. Dr. Phil returns to them and shares his thoughts.

"Now, you just watched me talk to this very impressive young man," he says. "I'm going to bring him out in just a second. And, you know, I truly believe that there are moments in life when we have the opportunity to make all things wrong right." He tells Ronald, "I am not in the least comfortable with all the things you have shared with this kid. If you and I had been neighbors, and you'd come over and said, 'You think I ought to tell him this so he has some explanation of why Mom's not here and whatever?' I would have said no. And I'll tell you why I would have said no. Because at some point, mothers will cycle back into a kid's life just as dads will, and you don't want to have done damage to their memory or their thinking up until that time." Turning to Cathie, he says, "You? I don't know what your priorities in this tug-of-war have been, but now's the time to look this boy in the eye and answer some questions that he needs answers to concerning your 10-year absence in his life. He doesn't need long stories, explanations or excuses. He needs some answers, some true answers, because if not, you're going to build a house on sand." Turning back to Ronald he says, "And you're going to continue to protect this child until she demonstrates some reliability and stability, and I don't blame you. But we need to have the opportunity to talk about this openly and straightforward, OK? This is one of these key moments in this boy's life. Let's not blow it." He invites Matthew out to the stage, and Cathie greets him with a heartfelt embrace. When they're all situated, Dr. Phil says, "Cathie, you don't think you've made all good decisions regarding your involvement in this boy's life."

"No," she says.

"Tell him what you mean by that," says Dr. Phil.
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Cathie turns to her son and, suppressing a sob, says, "Matthew, I love you very much." She takes his hand and continues, "And I've screwed up a lot with my life too, OK? Especially when I had to let you go. But I didn't have the money to get back to the trial. It was like $1,500 round-trip for one day, and the judge in Utah said, 'You're either here or you lose,' and I got walked on. I was working at a place in Utah, and your dad told me that he would not " how did he put it? Something to the effect of he was going to keep me in court the rest of my life unless I gave up my custody to you."

"Cathie, stop," Ronald interjects. "This never happened."

"I'm talking to him," she says. "You did."

"I never once ever threatened you or intimidated you in any way or shape or form, with courts, or even during the course of our marriage," says Ronald.

"Ron, but you did. But just let me finish," says Cathie. "Can I finish?"

"In fact, I would like a lie detector test, Dr. Phil, on the statement Cathie just made," says Ronald.

Dr. Phil tells Cathie, "OK, continue what you have to say, and then we'll talk about it. What Matthew's interested in is why you were gone for 10 years. He isn't interested in what the legal was. He isn't interested in who said what to whom. He wants to know, 'Where has my mother been for 10 years?'"

"I was in Michigan, and I screwed up, OK? I really did," Cathie continues. "I told you that before. Mom screwed up, OK? I never wanted to give you up, but I had to. But I love you, and I know that I should have called you more often than I did. And I sent you things whenever I could because I didn't have a lot of money. But the little pick-up-sticks that I sent you was just a little present, something that I could afford. The GameBoy I sent you, I had a little more money then and I sent it to you. The little monkey I sent you, I thought you loved it. And before I sent you back to your dad, I got you that shirt, brand new shirt, that [said] ‘My heart will always be with you.'"

"'As long as we're miles apart, we'll always be together at heart,'" Matthew recites.

Cathie grimaces as tears well in her eyes. "Yeah," she says.

"I still have that right next to my bed," says Matthew. "A red shirt with a teddy bear."

"And I love you," says Cathie.

"Do you want a relationship with your mother?" Dr. Phil asks.
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"Yes," says Matthew.

"What is it that has you so upset that you're throwing up 20, 30 times a day before you get all this medication to stop it?" asks Dr. Phil.

"All the broken promises and the lies," says the young man. Turning to his mother, he says, "In Michigan, you talked about your third husband, but why couldn't you go to the store, go on the payphone and call me for at least one minute?"

"I should have," says Cathie. "Like I said, I'm not perfect."

"'I should have' is not an answer," says Dr. Phil. "This is a 15-year-old kid who isn't even well-versed in the ways of the world, and he's saying, 'OK, I understand that your husband hated my dad,' but what he's saying is, from his own point of view, he's saying, 'Come on, it ain't that hard. Get a quarter. Go to a payphone.' And you say, 'Eh, I should have.' Honest to God, why did you not do that? This is your child."

"Whenever I would call the house, all the time, I could never talk to Matthew," says Cathie. "Matthew would be on the phone, but Ron's the one who always talked to me, always. I couldn't talk to him."

"I understand," says Dr. Phil, "but I wouldn't care if the Vienna Boys' Choir was on the phone. If that's what it took for me to talk to my child, I would do that. I would prefer to talk to him alone, but I would talk to him with anybody there if that was the only way I could talk to him. Are you afraid to tell your son you love him in front of your ex-husband?"

"You don't understand," says Cathie. "Matthew never got to talk, I mean, very seldom."

Matthew has another key question for his mother. "Why did you put hot sauce on my tongue at age 3?" he asks. "You're not supposed to do that when you're a baby, even if they say a bad word. You're supposed to at least put them in the corner, give them a timeout or something."

"Yes, I know," says his mother, "but every word that you were using was the F-word. And you learned that at school."

"At age 3, he wasn't in school, Cathie," Ron chimes in. They begin to bicker about the details of the incident.

"OK, can you guys stop?" says Matthew.

"Children at that age don't know that word," says Ronald.
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"Wait, hold it a minute," Dr. Phil interjects. "He just said something really important for y'all to hear. Would you say that again?"

"Can you stop?" Matthew says timidly.

"Yes," says Dr. Phil. "Could you say that again?"

"Can you stop?" he repeats with a smile. He and his parents give a little chuckle at themselves as they cease their debate.

Dr. Phil says, "OK, he doesn't want you to talk."

Dr. Phil returns to Matthew's list of questions for Cathie. "One of the questions he has is did you in fact kill his dog by running over it not once but twice?"

"That's very untrue," says Cathie.

"Did you run over it at least once?" asks Matthew.

"I have never run over a dog in my life," she says.

"But you might have done it by accident," says the teen.

"No, Honey, I was at work," she says.

"Do you believe her?" Dr. Phil asks Matthew.

"With all of the broken promises and all of the lies, really, I think that's a lie too," he says.

Dr. Phil addresses Cathie. "Now, you heard him talking about the fact that you didn't show up on Halloween," he says. "You made a promise on Halloween, and you didn't show up. Is that true or false?"

"That is true," she says, "because I had to work."

"OK, you didn't even call," says Dr. Phil.

"I should have called," she concedes. "That's another mistake I made."

"It's always ‘should have,'" says Matthew.

"I know!" she says. "I'm just saying I should have. I've made mistakes in my life."

Dr. Phil says, "Let me ask, on Matthew's behalf, what goes through your mind when you say, 'OK, it's time for the Halloween party. He's sitting home waiting for me, watching out the window. Eh, I don't think I'll call.' Share that thought process with Matthew. I think he needs to hear that and understand it."
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"I shouldn't have done that," says Cathie. "I should have called you."

"Shouldn't have is not an answer," Matthew says.

"I said I should have called you, and I don't know why " I guess maybe because I was exhausted. I was very tired," says his mother.

"That's always your excuse!" says Matthew. "That's all I ever hear from you."

Dr. Phil returns to Matthew's list of questions for Cathie. "One of the questions he has is did you in fact kill his dog by running over it not once but twice?"

"That's very untrue," says Cathie.

"Did you run over it at least once?" asks Matthew.

"I have never run over a dog in my life," she says.

"But you might have done it by accident," says the teen.

"No, Honey, I was at work," she says.

"Do you believe her?" Dr. Phil asks Matthew.

"With all of the broken promises and all of the lies, really, I think that's a lie too," he says.

Dr. Phil addresses Cathie. "Now, you heard him talking about the fact that you didn't show up on Halloween," he says. "You made a promise on Halloween, and you didn't show up. Is that true or false?"

"That is true," she says, "because I had to work."

"OK, you didn't even call," says Dr. Phil.

"I should have called," she concedes. "That's another mistake I made."

"It's always ‘should have,'" says Matthew.

"I know!" she says. "I'm just saying I should have. I've made mistakes in my life."

Dr. Phil says, "Let me ask, on Matthew's behalf, what goes through your mind when you say, 'OK, it's time for the Halloween party. He's sitting home waiting for me, watching out the window. Eh, I don't think I'll call.' Share that thought process with Matthew. I think he needs to hear that and understand it."
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"I shouldn't have done that," says Cathie. "I should have called you."

"Shouldn't have is not an answer," Matthew says.

"I said I should have called you, and I don't know why " I guess maybe because I was exhausted. I was very tired," says his mother.

"That's always your excuse!" says Matthew. "That's all I ever hear from you."

Dr. Phil tells Cathie, "You have an opportunity here. I don't want you beating yourself up. The past is over, but you can make some choices about what will happen in the future. And you understand the impact of breaking a commitment. And I don't see a lot of evil energy coming from Dad down there. I think at this point, you're supportive of her building a relationship back with him. Are you not?"

"Definitely, Dr. Phil," says Ronald.

Dr. Phil asks Matthew if he's willing to give his relationship with his mother a chance.

Matthew laughs a little and turns to his mother. "This is why I e-mailed Dr. Phil for help, because I want to have a relationship with you, but ever since you've been out here, all you've said are lies and broken promises. The school psychologist said when you make a promise, that's like an iron seal. You can't break it. But you have."

"And that's why I'm not going to promise you anything anymore," says Cathie. "If I know for a fact I can do it " bam, I'm going to be right there."

"Come on," says Dr. Phil. He notes that Cathie is a nurse. "My point is you're intelligent enough, you can read and write and manage care, and things like this. Don't write checks you can't cash!" he says.

"Right," says Cathie. "That's why I'm not promising anymore."

Dr. Phil responds, "And then saying, 'Well, then I just won't promise you anything " ' No, you know what you need to do? If you want a relationship with this young man, you need to work at it. You need to set some priorities, and if they call you " if you say, ‘I'm going to come over, and we're going to go to the mall and see a movie,' and they call you for work, you need to say, ‘No. Sorry. Can't do it. Have another commitment.' Now, you either will or you won't. I'm not trying to talk you into it." Addressing Matthew, he says, "And what I'm telling you is you need to kind of wipe the slate clean, and you need to say, 'You know what? I'm going to take this one step at a time.' And she will, or she won't. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You see whether or not she does something that indicates she has energy for this relationship. If she doesn't, you just need to acknowledge, fair or unfair, ‘This relationship is broken. I have a father who loves me. I'm a healthy, good-looking, smart kid, and I'm going to get through this.' Give her a chance." Turning back to Cathie he adds, "And if you blow it, you'll know the gravity of what you do when you do it."

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Dr. Phil tells his three guests that he'd be happy to arrange some family counseling, but adds, "I'll tell you what. I kind of want to watch what happens here for three or four weeks before we do that, because this isn't about what happens in a therapist's office, as much as it is what happens in the world. Let's watch this, and then I am happy to provide some help for everybody who wants it here."