The Adventures Of Fatherhood – May 26, 2023

“Hey, can I have a BBQ sandwich for dinner?”

It was a text from my son Beckett, 15, at 6:50 p.m. last Thursday. This is a normal text to get at night in our house. Family dinners together these days are unusual with busy schedules. At least a few times a week our family eats together but most often on the weekends because the weeknights are jammed.

What did make this food request different was we were not home, and he knew it (or forgot it). In fact, an hour before I was dressed before him in a suit in his room, I answered the question as to why I was dressed up. I reminded him we were heading to a hospital celebration that night and his grandmom was coming over. His mom told him the same thing an hour or so ago.

I texted him back saying we were out of the house but his grandmom could take care of it for him. He replied, “oh I didn’t know, you never told me.”

Later when we got home and checked on him in his room, I immediately regretted it. I was looking to make light of his earlier text when I got, “you are home late.” It was 9:52 p.m.

I have come to expect a bit of attitude and moods from my 15-year-old pride and joy. There are times when he flirts with disrespect, but most of the time he’s just in a bit of a way about this or that.

For example, I don’t see a day in the near future when he will not fight us on cleaning his room. I also do not see a day when his mother or I will be okay with his room featuring piles of clean and dirty clothes, used cups and empty water bottles. I suspect it will continue to be a source of dissension.

One thing I try hard not to do is take anything from him too personal. Beckett is at the age he doesn’t really want to talk about everything. Some days he doesn’t want to talk about anything at all. However, there are times when he unloads and it’s a good thing. One such instance was a bit ill-timed this week, but it was alright.

During the Decatur graduation parade on the Boardwalk, Beckett took me down a winding road about a range of topics including sports, school, girls, Messi, LeBron, Caitlin Clark and summer work. He was not asking about anything. It was just a random conversation of things on his mind. A few minutes later, he questioned whether I was listening and cared what he had to say. A little dispute ensued over that comment and suddenly I felt like I was walking through a teenage minefield.

A recent essay on the website (a guilty pleasure of mine of late) hit home on the subject of teen moods. It was written from a woman’s perspective by Alisa Schindler and titled, “When a Grumpty Teen Meets A Middle Age Mom”

These days, I’m just hoping to catch that sweet smile or be on the other side of a hug. For those moments where he answers with more than just “Fine,” “Nothing” or “Wait” and that he’ll notice I’m asking him a question before I’ve ripped the phone from his hands and am standing there pissed and hurt.

This dance isn’t easy. I’m nowhere near learning the steps of mixing the middle-aged hormones with the teenaged ones. It’s like two left feet trying to do salsa and head banging punk while in an attempt to Tango. So I try very hard to not be too nagging or over sensitive, but I don’t want to be a victim either.

My boy needs to know when he’s crossed the line, but it seems we are walking so many lines that the right and wrong get a little blurry. Or more accurately, I choose my battles. You can’t fight them all. That’s why I accept things I never thought I would to stay on his good side, and work extra hard to please him. Yet sometimes it seems, the more I try to get along, the more I feel the distance between us.

… I have a 13 year-old who is on the verge of joining his brother in the teenage void. Although, my middle son is very different from my oldest, and remains warm and open, I’m not holding my breath. He is naturally a passionate and hot-tempered boy and that just may not translate well in Teen Land. But of course, you never know. My youngest is 11 and I’ve decided that he’s just not allowed to become a teen until at least the older one ages out. I can’t handle more than two blank stares at a time.

“Mom! What’s taking so long?” my 16-year-old asks, a little too arrogant like he’s talking down to someone. Which since I’ve woken him, made him breakfast, packed his lunch and am now preparing to drive him to school is kind of what I am.

“I just wanted to show you this new zip-up I bought you.” I smile, holding out my offering. Please like it, I hope. I went to two stores to find one in his favorite color. “The one you’re wearing is ripped.” I say flatly, like I’m not vested in his approval. His eyes lift from his phone, just briefly enough to glance at it. “Sure, whatever.” He shrugs, and I am filled with relief. Like I just accomplished a major coup, getting him to agree to wear designer outerwear. He puts it on and before we’re out the door, he casually says, “Thanks.” and rewards me with that sweet smile, the exact same as when I’d hand him a cookie when he was a toddler. My heart contracts. I want to touch him, maybe just brush the hair away from his eyes, the way I used to be allowed to when boundaries were clearer as to who was in charge.

But now he’s growing up and I need to respect the natural order of things which dictates that to some extent a teenager must pull away from their parent and find his own way. It’s biology…”

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.