The Adventures Of Fatherhood – August 21, 2020

I have been thinking this week what’s more difficult – parenting a pre-teen or a special needs child.

Each kid in our house comes with challenges, but they are as different as they come.

Parenting a pre-teen is complicated. There’s some things going on with our 12-year-old that are mysterious and not always confirmable. We communicate a lot with Beckett, and I think we are properly engaged with him, but he clearly seems to be seeking independence and becoming more introverted. He has become uncomfortable talking recently when it’s clear things are bothering him. “I’m good, I’m just tired,” is an often refrain when we try a deep dive.

He prefers quick and casual conversations and has equated long talks with him being in trouble or getting bad news. We have taken note and instead strike up several long chats with him for no reason at all. The root of the talk doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the same result. A reluctance to let us in to discuss things he doesn’t want to broach.

It’s all about timing really. Sometimes he just wants to shut down and do his thing. I respect and understand that. I have always enjoyed the peace and tranquility of a quiet room to the pace and noise of a loud one.

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It doesn’t appear he is deliberately hiding things from us, but he clearly does not tell us everything. The question I am constantly asking myself is: should we know about it?

Last weekend he didn’t seem to be in the groove with a majority of kids his age on the beach. I don’t know if anyone was to blame, but it was clear everything was not great for him. We picked up on it, but he wouldn’t say much because he he’s not a “tattler.” I told him we understand the challenges of a large group and some days are different than others as far as involvement. We assured him it’s natural to be upset if someone hurts your feelings or you felt left out at times. He would have none of it and simply said all was fine. “I’m good, I’m just tired,” he said, ending a conversation once again before it even started.

I think this is part of a natural maturation process that has to take place within him. He will talk when he’s ready if something is bothering. Though I doubt the sincerity, there are times – I hope the majority – when he might just be exhausted and truly is fine. He also may be just be changing from an externalizer who typically voices all his emotions and thoughts to more of an internalize type who prefers to think through his feelings before articulating.

As for our 10-year-old Carson, the keys to success when parenting a special needs kid is to be resilient, patient and forgiving. There will be trying times and they might come at the worst possible time. Setting reasonable expectations of him before everything we do is a responsible path for him.

For many years, Carson was rigid and struggled with any sort of transition or change. He’s much more malleable these days. He still likes to know about a plan, as kids on the Autism spectrum do best with a schedule to follow. We always do our best to outline what we have planned for the day to prepare him.

While his older brother wades through the social challenges and hurdles of being a sensitive pre-teen who seems concerned about his standing and profile, the challenges with Carson are more simplistic. Though there are social concerns that come with being a non-verbal and shy child, our goals for Carson revolve around being functional in society and discovering the best path forward to him. Part of that journey is understanding it’s an ever changing and winding course. What’s best for him today will change next month. We must be flexible and pivot with him, while keeping modest expectations for him.

When he was younger, life was so complicated with Carson, as we wondered why he was not reaching his benchmarks and had serious concerns. Though the worries will forever be there, life has changed in recent months with Carson. He has calmed and is no longer the kid we have to brace for the unexpected with in most settings. Though we are always on our toes, we have discovered how to proceed forward with him in a happy fashion. He has subsequently gained independence, which has been a wonderful change.

With Beckett, I think the best thing we can do for him is to bob and weave with him as well. However, I think for him our preferred course is to be solid, reliable and responsive. He takes us for granted. I think that’s okay. We will be there for him when he needs us.

Ultimately all parents want for their kids is happiness. I think one of the things I have accepted of late is it’s not a parent’s responsibility to be the source that provides happiness. They need to be content and confident with themselves. They should find what makes them happy on their own, but we can be an unwavering source of support through the adventure of growing up. I think I have learned recently the level of support, and how to provide it. will be different for each kid.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.