21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Teen Saved From The Pitfalls of Poor Communication Methods

March 11th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Poor Listening SkillsCommunication is central to every relationship. I dare say it’s the foundation. I touched on this briefly in a guest post over at 21st Century Parenting. The article addressed one of my pet peeves – people talking through walls and around corners.

Au-Teen does this all the time. As he’s walking out the door to go hang out with friends, he announces his intention in that sing-songy tone, “I’m going to hang out with Joel for a while.”

In our average sized home, he’s somewhat audible when he does this, but it’s a BAD habit. This isn’t communication. This is a teenage boy flapping his mouth under the assumption he’s been heard.

It almost bit him in the ass this past weekend. He went to the park with his friend Gabe. He announced this as he was walking out the door. I held him up.

“I was talking to mom.”

“No you weren’t. She’s not here. You need to address us face-to-face and get acknowledgment that your message was received. I’ll have none of this talking as you walk out the door crap please. See you later.”

I was more diplomatic in my guest post. We ran out of sugar, so you’re taking this one straight. I absolutely HATE IT when people try to have a conversation through walls and around corners. It’s one of the most annoying things Au-Teen does. Maybe it’s that sing-songy tone. Maybe he tries to weasel his way out of accountability when he’s called out for poor communication.

It’s often said, “pick your battles.” I’ll let him throw his dirty socks on the floor in his bedroom, but this one deserves a parental counter-attack of significant magnitude.

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Taking Some of the Step out of the Stepchild

February 7th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

The Guitar Hero - 4Yesterday was the Au-Teen’s birthday. I can’t believe he’s 14! He’s been part of my life for over two years already. We got along great from the very beginning, but we’re still forging our relationship, getting to know each other, and growing closer.

He was living with his grandparents when I first met Renee, so there was an opportunity for us to behave like a childless couple for a little while. When Renee and I first realized we were in it for the long haul, I encouraged her to tell me as much as possible about him.

One day, Renee shared some key facts about Au-Teen. My response was, “I’ve known this kid all my life!” That’s when my doubts were cast aside. I knew this blended family thing could work.

Somehow I knew it was important to learn as much as I could. Being a step-parent has a new layer of difficulty. It’s like getting a new video game, chucking the manual aside, skipping the training mode or tutorials, and jumping in at the medium or difficult level.

I didn’t want to be the stereotypical stepfather. I spent a lifetime bucking stereotypes. Why stop here? When the plans were finalized to become a blended family, I was ecstatic. I knew I had to step up my own level of accountability. I would face the challenge of becoming a better man every day.

Renee and I spent almost a year together as a childless couple. We enjoyed the time immensely. At the end of May 2006, it was like she gave birth to a fully-grown 12 year old boy!

Most 12 year old boys have 4 years of life experience repeated 3 times. He is going to leave tasks half-completed or totally neglected. That’s what they do. He’s going to prefer video games and comic books to something an adult would consider more intellectually nourishing.

It wasn’t smooth sailing like I had hoped. The difficulties I have with Au-Teen aren’t unique to a stepchild. He’s a very normal and very healthy teenager. The almighty “T” is running through his veins. Playing the XBox ranks a little higher on his list than scooping the litter box.

We’ve both made conscious and unconscious efforts toward bonding with each other. I played the original Mortal Kombat before he was even born. Now he and I enjoy some virtual sparring. I did it when I was younger, and now I’m introducing it to him. He’s not much of a sports fan, but he does like hockey now. He couldn’t tell you too any player’s names except Olli Jokinen, but he never turns down an invitation to a Panthers game. He thought it was a big deal when I let him wear my jersey. Au-Teen has picked up the guitar and he’s progressing nicely. I want to believe that I had something to do with sparking his interest in it.

Renee is a full-blown advocate of attachment parenting. It places a lot of demands on her. Naturally, I end up taking care of many of Au-Teen’s needs. I drive him to karate class and Civil Air Patrol meetings. He gets free guitar lessons from me. Our music tastes cross over much more than it does with Renee’s. I remain the lone country fan in the house… I still have Twilli, heheheheh.

I’m playing catch-up. Renee had a 12 year head start on me. I’ve never questioned my decision to be in this relationship. Maybe that’s why it’s so infuriating when Au-Teen does something boneheaded. I’m stuck with the kid. I’m glad that I am. He’s not perfect, and neither am I. We’re getting along just fine, just like a father and his son.