In a previous blog post, I recounted how I became a Stepmother, parenting for the first time at mid-life. After more than five years of knowing my Stepson, I am amazed at how well it has gone. And how…interesting it has been. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s one of those learn-as–you-go programs, apparently.
Hubby and I were watching Gene Simmons Family Jewels recently, and though we are definitely not a Rock-Star family, we could totally relate to what was happening. Gene and his wife were having dinner with their teenaged son, who was apparently perturbed about something and was in what I like to call “Teen Speak Mode”. Which means he was NOT doing a lot of speaking. The young man was using one-word, vague answers to questions, and he even used the classic “thumbs up” gesture which allowed him to convey a response without speaking at all. Apparently it is a requirement that all answers be delivered in a surly mumble, lest they accidently sound like an actual conversation.
It goes something like this:
Parent: What did you do last night?
Parent: You were at your friend’s house for hours! What did you do all that time?
Teen: Hung out.
(Teen does not look up from his phone while answering).
Parent: Who are you texting?
Parent: What are you doing the rest of the afternoon?
You get the idea. We have tried several different approaches, to no avail. If a Teen doesn’t want to talk, a CIA Interrogator probably couldn’t get him to open up.
When I first met my Stepson, he was ten years old. It was on the second date I had with his father, and they had invited me to join them for the day at an Anime Convention. I was familiar with Anime (those really cool cartoons where everyone has spiky hair and huge eyes) from spending hours watching it with one of my nephews. So Future-Stepson and I had an appreciation for Anime in common, and as the day progressed we discovered there were quite a few other things we both liked- crab cakes, sci-fi, reading, and traveling. He was very polite and mature for his age, and I was even more impressed with his father for raising such well-behaved son.
Over the next two years, we became good friends, as my relationship with his father became more serious. He was not a perfect child; he had his moments when both his parents had to get on his case. But for the most part, he was a good kid, got decent grades in school, and did what he was told without too much trouble. He was also very affectionate, which melted my heart on many occasions. I was warming up to the idea of being more involved in his life, realizing there could be a lot of joy along with the responsibility of parenting.
By the time his father and I married, Stepson was thirteen and the change had begun. He started Middle School, got a cellphone and an IPOD, and things have not been the same since. I have to admit I was baffled by the rapidity of the changes- in behavior, in personality, in how he wanted to spend his time, even his energy level. It goes in phases, so we still see flashes of the person I know him to be, deep inside. But this process of pulling away and gaining independence can take some weird turns. One day you have an inquisitive child that asks a million questions, and the next you have a young man who is six inches taller and seems to believe he already knows everything there is to know!
I count my blessings, though, and try not to take it too seriously. I ventured online to a Step-parenting Forum, where I was shocked by some of the problems people related about their newly blended families, and relieved that none of our challenges have been that bad. We do try to balance our approach with a mix of understanding and tolerance- to a point. We do want to instill in him good values and respect, and encourage him to take responsibility for his choices in life.
I plan to take it one day at a time, as you never know what is going to happen next. I enjoy the warm family moments as much as I can, never wanting to take them for granted- I waited far too long for them! And I know I can call upon that feeling to get me through it when the going gets tough.
How has a teenager’s transformation to adulthood changed your way of thinking? Are most teens similar, or are they all different? What have you learned to help you cope, and to help them grow?