The Adventures Of Fatherhood – September 8, 2023

First days of school provide opportunities every year to take stock of family life.

In my household, a lot has changed in one year.

At this time last year, Pam and I were adjusting to a new world with our Beckett, 15, attending boarding school in Virginia. It was an uncomfortable feeling and there was truly a sense of loss. It was something Beckett wanted to try, and he had a great experience. He loved it until he didn’t, and we opted to bring him back home halfway through the year. He started his 10th grade year last week and it’s great to have him back at home. It feels right, although having a teenager in the house is not always joyful.

One year ago, Pam and I took Carson, 13, to school on his first day, and we had a difficult time separating from him. There were tears and lots of them. There was also sweat as it was a challenging morning for us as well as our education team. It was about as an inauspicious of a start to the school year one could imagine.

Fast forward to this year, I am delighted to report our eighth grader Carson did exactly what we asked of him. He went straight into school with no issues at all. There was no separation issue and no challenges getting him out of the car to go inside. It went as smooth as it could have been, and I was so relieved leaving school that day. In fact, I sat in my truck for a few minutes in total silence to reflect and pray as a matter of fact because flashbacks to last year’s first day were on my mind all weekend.

For parents of neuro-typical kids, a child refusing to get out of the car or go into school sounds foreign. We know because we have one of each — a so-called normal child and a special needs child. We understand the normal school drop-off involves pulling up to the designated location and the kid going on his or her way without any fanfare. It’s easy.

We have an appreciation for that simple part of the day. With our Carson, it’s neither simple nor easy. We follow the same routine each morning to keep him on a good track. We have found it best for Pam to not be too involved in the mornings with Carson. The process seems to work best with just Carson and I going through the morning. The process has evolved over time.

Our morning school drop-off entails parking and walking to the school where we hope for a smooth pass off to his education team. I never take this part of the morning for granted because there have been days when something has set him off and he becomes difficult and refuses to go into school. Emotions take over, anxiety ramps up and struggles ensue.

The great news is we got off to a super start this week. Carson has proven to be much more adaptable and mature. It’s a wonderful change and inspires us to continue to push him forward in a positive direction to new and great things.

The headline from a Raising Teens Today article read, “Are you a pushover parent? 6 ways to tell and how you can fix it.” It grabbed my attention because I am often referred to as a pushover by the lady of the house.

The six ways listed were: “You’re trying to be your teen’s friend; you give in when your teen wants to bend the rules; you avoid conflict regardless of the outcome; you don’t stick to your guns when it comes to consequences; you don’t put your foot down when your teen is rude or disrespectful; and you rarely say “no” to your teen’s requests/demands.”

With my family, there’s no question I am more of a pushover than Pam. She has always been the tougher of the two of us on the parenting front, and hindsight has proven her to be right on most matters of divide over the years. I will credit myself with coming a long way, however. I think we now offer a good balance for our kids.

Because conflict is a part of my daily work life, I have a tendency of avoiding it at home, so the “you avoid conflict regardless of the outcome” topic applies to me specifically. Though I may be tired from work and resolving problems on the professional front, it doesn’t mean I should just be on cruise control at home. The column reads, “Rather than do what you know is necessary, you’re simply too tired to argue so you let it slide in hopes that the situation will resolve itself.” It continues, “… we might inadvertently take the path of least resistance to avoid conflict at all costs, which experts agree is the wrong path to take. Your kids need to view you as a point of authority. If they don’t, they won’t take you seriously, they won’t follow your rules and somewhere down the road, you’ll begin to feel as though you’re losing control. Stick to your guns. … You can still be a compassionate, loving and kind parent, you just need to be firm and hold your ground.”

The column also reported, “According to Psychology Today, ‘Learning how to deal with not getting what you want when you want it is an essential life skill kids need to learn. When kids are accustomed to being overindulged (either materialistically or as a result of saying yes to their demands), not getting what they want inevitably feels to them like deprivation.’”

The words make perfect sense, and I can visualize my wife shaking her head yes while reading the content. Now I just need to apply the guidance.

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.