The Adventures Of Fatherhood – June 25, 2021

Commiserating with parents of middle school-aged kids has become a guilty pleasure of mine.

Therefore, a warning to those of you with kids in the early teen age range I’m looking to hear some thoughts, experiences, joys and horror stories.

I have found myself seeking out parents to catch up on what’s going on in their world. The goal being comfort in the “misery loves company” realm of things. It’s always a relief to hear some of the changes and challenges presenting themselves for us are shared by others. It’s comforting to hear we are not alone in this adventure and there are shared concerns for many.

A few talks of late I’ve had by subject:

•Immature: I actually think my 13-year-old might be getting more immature as he gets older. I got into a conversation about this very topic with a parent at basketball camp pickup this week.

He is as loose with his words these days as I have ever seen him. He seems to want to show off his new vocabulary, which does not consist anything impressive. He seems anxious to demonstrate the new expressions he has learned with his same-age friends.

The exception being when it comes to speaking with his parents. He’s got little to nothing to ever say to us. When we pepper him with questions about this or that, he gets annoyed and dishes attitude. Once I grab the phone out of his hand, I get some attention, probably only because he fears it’s going to be taken away for a while.

Though he doesn’t tantrum like he used to as a toddler, there are still meltdowns as a teen. These moments of nearing breakdown are disturbing. I also find them a bit funny. I get a kick out of observing how ridiculous he can be at times over the silliest of things. What’s important to him makes no sense to us but I guess it’s because we have perspective, something he lacks severely right now.

•Gratitude: While happy he does not have to struggle for much in life, there are instances when I know he needs to go without for a while to gain some appreciation.

This lack of gratitude is infuriating. It’s on display every night when Pam and I are calling it a night. Because there is no school, he thinks there should be no bedtime. He should just be able to fall asleep when he wants and have his electronics as he wishes.

He also thinks he needs an entirely new iPad because his is three years old and his buddy got a new one (albeit his first ever one). It’s a fine line between spoiling and providing. I’m thinking Pam and I have crossed it more often than not, but I also realize it’s a kid thing in general nowadays. There is a certain level of expectations that’s foreign to me.

•Privacy: There is no reason for a closed door. Yet, it’s a discussion that takes place all the time. To communicate with his friends, the door needs to be closed. To read a book, the door must be closed. To use the bathroom, the door to his bedroom must also be closed. To watch television, the door should be shut tight.

It’s a shared phenomenon as several parents have remarked on it. It’s a constant fight over privacy. “It’s none of your business,” we are told. The reality is, “everything is our business,” in reply.

Oddly enough, to leave the house to skateboard outside, the door to the house somehow doesn’t get closed all the way. It’s because his hands are full, he says.

•Social awkwardness: While out to eat recently, I introduced my teen to the restaurant owner. Instead of putting out his hand or even saying hello, he simply stared at him and didn’t say a word.

After Pam and I laid into him for being rude, he became friendlier from that point on. He was laying it on a little too thick. At one point, he offered to clear the table for a staffer. He also told the waiter we were going to tip him 50% for going next door and getting his little brother a dairy-free dessert.

Later when I broached the conversation about the tip comment he flared up with some nonsense about me being stingy.

The comment made by a parent that, “Everything about a middle schooler is awkward,” resonates.

•Mistreatment: From one conversation with a father of five, I learned it’s completely normal for young teens to treat their parents terribly while being kind and respectful to others.

I have had several instances when people have shared experiences with my son that truly surprise me these days. I was informed recently my son jumped up from a table outside a business and rushed to hold the door for a woman with her grandkids in tow. She was impressed.

Later that night, I watched as my son reacted with disgust and revolt over cleaning his room and getting his school books organized for packing away. School had been done for two weeks and I thought the folders and books left around the room from studying should be put away.

“School doesn’t start for two months, what’s the rush,” he said, as he tripped over folders and loose papers.

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.