Here’s a 50-year-old man without four kids.
Here’s a 50-year-old man with four kids.
Here’s the savings balance of a man without.
Here’s the savings balance of a man with.
This Fall, my wife and I are preparing for the rare parental double-double. Well, I’m preparing while my spouse is sad about the upcoming prospect. As far as I’m concerned, this is the highly coveted and rarely achieved parental twofer! My guess is this is how the parents of twins feel.
You see our last two sons are preparing to head off to college in the fall. One son spent two years studying at a junior college while the youngest is graduating from high school. By September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. I think that bears repeating; by September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. This is the culmination of our twenty-six year journey that began in our modest three bedroom home when our first of four sons was born.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to miss them in an inexplicable, confounding way. For all their inherent teen-ness, there will be a void in the house. But at least there will be two less rooms in the house I will need to avoid!
As I prepare for their impending departure, I have begun to compile a list of all that I will miss when they are off studying in some far distant county or state. To that end, here are the 10 reasons why I’m going to miss my teens:
I am in the process of raising four sons, and let’s get this out of the way right up front, I am not complaining! While there are definitely some challenges that come with rearing four sons, there are innumerable rewards as well. None come to mind at the moment but give me a minute. Nope, still nothing.
Anyway, as entertaining as it can be at times, there are certain realities that come with the territory. As unique as each of my sons is, these realities can be attributed to all of them. It might be tied to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, or it could be a part of the teen credo that exists somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight. An American Tail. Anyone? Anyone? So, without further preamble, here are my 10 realities of living with your teen.
For every Tiger Woods, there are thousands of frustrated golfers on the links whose Dad put a putter in their hands at the tender age of three. For every Madison Bumgarner there are hundreds of struggling journeymen in the minors who wish they weren’t forced to pitch in the backyard with their fathers until their blisters bled.
Struggling musicians, frustrated artists, inaccurate quarterbacks, no-talent actors, depressed accountants, inedible chefs, fired up firefighters, all living out the dreams of their fathers. If you have dreams you did not pursue during your youth, for whatever reason, don’t force them on your kids. This is their life. Don’t try to fashion your dreams to fit around their lives.
My parents taught me that whatever career path you choose in life, make sure it is something you will enjoy. Even when they were probably panicking inside at my seemingly ill-advised choices, they let me live my own life, make my own mistakes and wander in my own direction (what cliff?). This left me with the satisfaction of knowing it is my own path, and they were always there with loving support and encouragement.
In my experience, I have witnessed many a miserable kid suffering through a Little League practice, and no it wasn’t because I was the coach. As my boys got older, I encountered college students struggling with their accounting classes because they really wanted to pursue architecture.
As they get older, even if your chosen path proves fruitful, there will always be the “what if” factor. What if I had; pursued that zoology major; taken a year off to work in Nome, Alaska; joined the Peace Corps; decided to become a professional cliff diver…
What are your what ifs? Did someone force you to go left rather than right? How does it make you feel, even now when you have a family of your own? Let’s allow our children to select their own path, who knows, they might surprise us!
Last week’s blog focused on the top ten joys of being a teen, see link below. The information was based on my years of raising four sons, the youngest having just turned seventeen. Granted it was not a firsthand account from an actual teen, but a well-researched compendium culled from over twenty-six cumulative years of observation. I felt it was a thorough and genuinely sound record.
Well, my second son (the outdoors-man on the right) has apparently taken umbrage at my list because, even though he has always claimed to never read my blogs, he sent me an email yesterday offering a counter-list of his own. My first reaction was, someone read my blog! Then my wife suggested I am obligated to offer equal time to my son.
So, without further ado, here is a teen rebuttal. The 10 Worst Things About Being A Teen according to my twenty-four-year-old son. (Note: #4 I find especially painful.)
The next time your eleven-year-old says they are sorry, treasure that moment because it is the last time you will hear it for nine years. The reason is simple. In their clouded, visually impaired, reality-skewed mind, they are never wrong.
It must be a joyous experience to be seventeen… it has been too long for me to properly recall. But imagine, the entire world is before you, dangling on a string. Unfortunately, your parents are the ones holding that damn string. If it weren’t for them the world, and all who inhabit it, would be so much better off.
Whenever I suffer from TMTT (too much teen time) I am reminded of my favorite quote of all time attributed to Mark Twain, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in 7 years.”
I believe that is how every teen perceives the world. They view parents exactly the way the Disney Channel portrays us in every teenage sitcom; brain addled, befuddled, incapable of coherent thought and depending entirely on the knowledge and wisdom of our teenage children to survive. So, without any additional preamble, here are the top ten joys of being a teen.
If you have survived teething, the terrible twos, potty training, kindergarten, elementary school, high school and think nothing could be worse. Fasten your seat-belt! You are now about to put your $20K vehicle, with the pristine paint job, and a 120-horsepower engine in the hands of a sixteen-year-old who’s diaper you changed.
Teaching your teen to drive is akin to training orangutans to load the dishwasher. They might possess the dexterity and coordination for the task, but their lack of focus and reason will create a morass of broken dishes and bent silverware.
This voyage will be long and arduous and someone’s going to end up crying, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry. It will test your sanity and the relationship you have with your teen and quite possibly your spouse. If at all possible, move out of state until they pass their driver’s license test. In lieu of that, here are my ten tips for teaching your teen to drive.
Try to be empathetic. There was a time you didn’t know how to drive. Of course, we learned on a stick shift, in the hilly streets of San Francisco, dodging tourists and cable cars, all while trying to parallel park your dad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. They’ve got it easy!
When our older sons hit teendom, my wife and I decided we had two options. We quickly ruled out secretly moving to a new location. That left us with the second alternative, getting a dog. We determined that to survive this new challenge we needed to call in the cuddle cavalry.
Since we could not find any direwolves at our local pet store, we went with the next best possibility, a Saint Bernard. Meet Scout, see blog photos. One hundred and fifty pounds of love, Scout was just the cure for whatever they could throw at us. He was a gentle giant with a mammoth heart and slobber to spare.
Whenever tensions mounted and anxiety hit its apex, there was solace to be found in Scout’s incredibly soft fur and calming presence. Even though they weren’t meant for us, it could have been the pheromones, but regardless, just having Scout nearby guaranteed some much-needed respite.
Sadly, our bond was all-to-brief, as our Scoutie succumbed to lymphoma after only 4 ½ years, but his presence in the neighborhood and beyond is the stuff of legend. It was not unusual for cars to pull over while we were walking Scout and have the driver come over just to say hello to our Saint. Whenever a young child or older person approached us during a walk, our gentle soul would get down on all fours so as not to intimidate. No one told him to, he just instinctively knew this would help alleviate their fears. (Excuse me for one minute, something is in my eye.)
As I write, the vivid memories come flooding back: the tattoo-laden truck driver who parked in front of our house and snapped a photo of Scout; the plastic bat Scout would grab in his mouth and swing as if he was batting cleanup (he was able to connect on a few pitches I threw); the swish of that amazing tail of his that resembled a feather duster; cleaning slobber off the walls after a particularly intense shake; the earth-rattling “harrumph” as he laid down by my bed in the middle of the night; and the way he rested his hefty paw on top of my hand.
In a battle of teen versus adult, there was comfort in knowing that we always had Scout in our corner. Actually he was in his corner, but we could go over to him and get some much needed comfort and fur whenever we desired. The beauty was the teens took advantage of his warmth and solace as well, knowing he would not judge, but freely give his love to whomever was in need. He was like Mother Teresa on all fours (no disrespect intended).
In the end we all benefited from his presence in our lives. He brought joy (and epic amounts of fur) into our home. He became a part of our family in a more intense way than we expected. He cured one of our sons of his fear of dogs and converted us all to “big dog people” for the rest of our lives. We provided Scout with food and lodging and in return he bestowed upon us so much more.
Scout at 12 weeks.