The Adventures Of Fatherhood – January 7, 2022

Somedays I think parenting my teen is the challenge of my life.

Perhaps a bit of hyperbole at play here, but the struggle is real to remain composed, patient and balanced when it comes to our 13-year-old. Some days I fluctuate between thinking we are failing as parents to wondering what we did to this kid to get so much attitude and pushback daily. One thing is for sure there are many instances when I just must walk away from him because I don’t have the fight in me.

I overthink everything including my kids. One thing I have found recently with my neurotypical teen Beckett is I don’t understand him. I struggle to identify with him during times of peak frustration. Ironically, my autistic son Carson is easier to connect with these days. Life is more black and white with him. It’s a sea of gray with Beckett most of the time.

Scrolling through articles this week I came across one headlined, “Dear Teenagers, I’m Sorry if I Don’t ‘Get It.’ I Was Raised in a Different Time.” I read it with interest, as it addresses many recent conversations I have had with parents struggling with getting along with their teens.

Rather than paraphrasing it, here are some excerpts from the online article from RaisingTeens.com.

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When my kids hit the teen years, I thought I was ready. After all, I was a teenager once. I recall exactly what it felt like to deal with crazy, unpredictable hormonal swings, embarrassing acne, the desire to fit in with the crowd and the yearning to break free from any hint of control.

… I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t work that way…

My kids’ day-to-day lives, the academic rigor they’re challenged to keep pace with and the social pressure they have to endure is nothing like my life was when I was growing up. Sure, there are a few commonalities that help me navigate my way through these years with my kids, but for the most part, it’s a different time and a very different world.

When I was a teenager, I ran around the neighborhood until midnight with my friends (in the summer, anyway) and my parents didn’t give it a second thought. I was gone for 10 hours at a stretch (without a cell phone) and, again, my parents didn’t think twice about it.

If I got a “C” on a test, my parents patted me on the back with a big smile and said “great job” because they had the comfort of knowing I was average, which was the best they could hope for.

… Life didn’t revolve around us. Our parents were busy. They had lives outside of raising a family. Sure, they loved us, but they didn’t spend their every waking moment thinking and worrying about our grades, who we were hanging out with or what we were doing every moment of the day.

They weren’t so hyper-focused on whether we were spending too much time watching TV, whether we had what it took to get into college or whether we could land a full-ride scholarship to cover the cost an over-priced education that would otherwise take decades to pay off.

Today, the fast-paced world of instant messaging, the massive influence of social media, relentless academic pressure that starts too early, less downtime (for both our kids and us), the pressure to be good at absolutely everything, the pervasiveness of drugs and the power of celebrity influence has put our kids and us into overdrive.

… The harsh reality is that nearly every teen I know is maxed out. From the time they wake up in the morning, to the time they go to bed, nearly every moment is accounted for. Their schedule is packed with school, studying, sports, extracurricular activities, clubs, volunteering, internships, and a job. And, somewhere in the midst of their busy schedule, they’re expected to build meaningful relationships with their parents and friends, and somehow squeeze in much-needed downtime.

There’s little time to get bored or be lazy and certainly not enough time in the day to ponder and dream about the future.

… The pressure of perfectionism that our teens have to endure is building over time.

Years ago, I didn’t start the day with the fear that one wrong move in school, one slip up, could make me the focus of social ridicule with one hit of the share button. If I bottomed out on a test, missed a goal or didn’t land the part in the play, I never felt as though I let anyone down. … I know that under the cloak of pressure, stress, and anxiety that burdens you at times, you’re still a teenager like I was who longs for carefree fun and freedom.

As parents, all we can do is help our kids feel that freedom, to let them fumble, fall and learn how to get back up, to help them find out who they are and work alongside them to peel back the layers of angst and uncertainty and help them put things into perspective so they can breathe and smile and laugh and be silly like teenagers should.

Mostly, we need to love them unconditionally, support them, offer guidance when they need it and a shoulder to lean on when they’re weary. We won’t always be able to make things easier for our kids, but the weight of this world won’t be quite so heavy if we help our kids and carry it together.

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.