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There are psychological studies on everything. I find that studying and reading parenting books are great resources, but where I’m most comfortable is in simply attempting to relate emotionally to my children.
I have two sons, 13 and 14 years old, and what I like to tell them is that I’m not just your father, I’m your tour guide. When I think about where they are in life: puberty, going to middle and high school, being attracted to girls, wanting to fit in, playing sports, etc., I remember how overwhelming all of this was when I was growing up. Boys go through a lot of emotional changes in their early teenage years. And no, I’m not a psychologist, but I am a 41 year old man who remembers being there.
When the boys were little, it was “daddy look, a bird! look daddy, a dog! daddy, daddy look, a fire truck!” Now when they come home from school I’ll ask, “how was your day son?” Their responses range from “good” to “fine”. I may ask, “did you learn anything new today?” Their response may be “no” or “yes”, but that’s about the sum of it (lol).
So how do we adapt to this drastic change in character? How do we process going from being their favorite person in the world to being (assumingly) just, dad?
What works well for me is to remind myself what it was like to be their age. I purposely take a lot of time out of my day to simply try and remember what it was like being in middle/high school. It takes a lot of work, but I also try and remember what it was that I wanted from my parents, and I attempt to be that. I try to address what I felt like my needs were, by being that kind of father for them now.
Is it really a big deal if their room is a mess? Is it really a big deal that Gatorade was spilled on the rug? What’s most important to me is that the boys feel a sense of belonging, a sense of “all is well”. I get it. You go to school and have to traverse all of the social dynamics of the crazy teenage world. Who wants to come home and hear dad bark about what really doesn’t matter? After all, what matters to a teenager? What mattered to me when I was a teenager? I’m finding that by being transparent and having integrity is what the boys respond well to. Allowing them the space to just be teenage boys who like girls and love to play video games is, after all, ok. As a matter of fact, one-word answers to questions is, ok. Why? Because that’s what teenagers do.
Being a parent is the most challenging, as well as rewarding experiences that I’ve had in life. There is a mixture of fear and a lot of doubt. I’m finding though, that just “being there” for my boys is good enough. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, and I certainly have been unable to give my children all of the “things” that I want for them; but at the end of the day if my boys know and understand that dad is there, and that he isn’t tripping on the “little” things, then so be it. I want my boys to be comfortable enough in their home to invite their buddies over to hang out. If that means giving up my living room and big screen tv so that they can sometimes veg on video games, eat pizza and potato chips, then so be it. Not that I’m trying to be their friend INSTEAD of their parent: I Am their parent AND their friend. And for me, that’s ok as well.
I wish all of you good parents well on your journey! I’m sure you’re finding as much joy and satisfaction in this up and down emotional rollercoaster as I am.
Thanks for listening.
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