The Adventures Of Fatherhood – September 24, 2021

There are methods behind what appears to be my 13-year-old’s madness.

I am learning his own unique reasoning applies to most things in his life as we move through his maturation. It’s clear he likes to do things his way and prefers to not divulge details behind his rationale. If we try to take a deep dive, he says we are “babying” him and “giving him a hard time.” While we may be guilty sometimes, especially involving school assignments, typical attempts at engagement he also finds annoying.

He’s been a free thinker his entire life. He’s open to listening to advice from his parents on a particular approach to problem solving or daily life and why another recourse might be more suitable, but he almost always is going to pick his own direction.

At this point, I’m happy when he explores all sides before making a decision, even if it’s a mistake. I am trying to teach him to think things through before making rash decisions. Avoiding hasty reactions and quick judgments can help cut down on the regret factor when mistakes are made. Learning from these poor decisions is paramount after all. I tell him I try to live this way.

Some examples to illustrate the point he’s becoming a deliberate soul, albeit with some misplaced priorities at times.

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•One of his favorite things to do currently is to walk “uptown,” which is how he refers to Berlin’s Main Street area. He likes meeting up with friends and walking around or sometimes just being by himself.

Because we track his whereabouts, it’s clear he is walking around a lot and covering much distance. I inquire every time he leaves the house why he doesn’t ride his bike. He always says, “I’m good.”

When Pam and I were talking about it later, she surmised he doesn’t want to bike because we make him wear a helmet and he doesn’t want to mess up his hair. To early teen boys, hair is important. I’ve learned this lately, especially when he got incredibly anxious and nervous about getting his hair cut right before school.

The next time he wanted to go uptown I asked him if the hair was why he doesn’t want to bike. He just said, “maybe.” Pam had nailed it.

•Whenever he wants to go “uptown,” he takes a bookbag with him. It annoys us because it looks like he’s leaving for days, not hours. He says it’s so he doesn’t drop his phone. By the looks of the phone these days, I’d say he learned the hard way about protecting it.

•He will defend a total stranger with passion. When a kid recently skateboarded directly into my truck at a stop sign, we got out to check on him. My son told the young boy it was his dad’s fault for stopping too abruptly. When I asked later what gives, he said he knew the kid’s older sister. I understood the robust defense then.

•Pam went to great lengths to find the right string lights for his room. These things are important to young teens for their nightly video communications with friends. During a scoping session of his phone recently, I noticed many of his friends have the same lights in their rooms.

The problem is when he was asking for the lights he never told us why he wanted them. I’m guessing he knew the “because all my friends have them” argument would not prompt us into action. He told us he liked the dull light rather than the ceiling fan light and other lights in his room. While that may be true, the direct route does not seem to be chosen enough for my liking. Everything has to be deciphered and probed before the real reason is discovered. It’s usually trivial but it takes investigative work.

I learned early on in this parenting adventure the key is simply keeping life on a track moving forward. The train, or the family if you will, is going to veer off the tracks from time to time. The key is getting back up and move ahead.

When the kids were toddlers, this involved silly things like a broken toy prompting a tantrum, spilled juice resulting in a furniture cushion being tossed, splashing bath water all over the place or a diaper disaster foiling dinner out. They were small things in the grand scheme of life, but they didn’t seem that way at the time.

The mishaps seem more noteworthy today. It’s because the errors of today leave parents wondering about their kids’ futures. When a toddler throws a cup of juice across the floor in a tantrum, there are not concerns about whether he needs to see someone about explosive impulsivity. When a 13-year-old forgets to study for an important test, the fear is his forgetfulness is symptomatic of a problem in his brain. It’s ridiculous and normal at the same time. That’s at least what I tell myself all the time.

At 13, there are evolving challenges, like bad decisions from time to time, misplaced priorities and a lack of thinking before speaking. Though there are issues to address, he’s also smart, athletic, a caring, loyal friend and shows empathy and compassion. He’s a work in progress as we all are in every way. He learns from his mistakes and that’s important.

Fast forward 10 years and what we are going through today might seem trivial. I doubt it, however. I imagine I said the same thing 10 years ago, though.

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.