Next year my elder son will become a teenager. This is a fact and there is nothing that I nor my wife can do about it – this however isn’t going to be one of those blogs where I wail about “How can this have happened?!?!” or “Where does the time go?!?!” I know how time works and I’m also aware of the biological fact that we get older and that the children my wife and I created also get older but what I didn’t expect was that my firstborn would become a teenager before he actually turned thirteen.
Last night I got home from work and as I relaxed into my armchair and put Pointless on the telly – the calm before the boys arrived home from their grandparents’ house – my phone buzzed and I had a message from the aforementioned twelve year old:
“Have school rung? *******’s Mum saw our texts and was really angry and she’s contacted the school.”
“What did you say in these texts?!?”
“Just funny stuff.”
“Did it include swearing?”
“Yes but it was both of us.”
“We’ll talk about it when you get home.”
“Am I in trouble?”
This was coming in the middle of me not only watching my favourite quiz show but I was also making a lovely tea for me and my wife who was on a late at work – for goodness sake I was even doing veg.
Anyway he arrived home with his brother and grandmother – aka my lovely mother in law Val and she didn’t know what was going on just that he was being sullen and let’s be frank here, that isn’t really anything usual at the moment. He looked miserable and a bit scared and when my wife arrived home and I updated her with the news of what our first born had been up to well it’s fair to say that our evening ruined.**
There were tears, apologies, I ended up repeating phrases my parents had said to me when I was younger and then sat in bed later reflecting on how it was true and that you do turn into your parents and tried not to get too depressed about that. We had further disclosures from him, he’d had his first kiss, some of the texts did mention saucy activities – he’s twelve, I can’t say sex – and that his friends didn’t like him at the moment as he’s spending all his time with this girl.
I listened to all this and I didn’t get angry with him but instead I felt a little bit sad for him. There’s a running joke in my family about how when I was younger I could never speak to girls and that I didn’t get my first girlfriend until I was 18 but last night I thought about it all and I thought that when I look back at things I really glad I didn’t. Maybe I am old fashioned but I feel really uncomfortable seeing and hearing little kids talking about their boyfriends and girlfriends and what’s worse seeing their parents talk about these relationships as though they are serious and a long term proposition – my son and his friends are eleven and twelve!!! I want him to be uncomfortable talking to girls, I want him to obsess about football and the untouchable impossibly perfect women that he sees incessantly in the media and not a girl he sees every day in school – that’s for later on in life.
One of the main things in my son’s life is technology. He has a tablet and a mobile phone and hits them hard every single day vanishing into his room as soon as he gets home, resurfacing for tea and heading back upstairs. We hear him chatting via whatever app to his friends and this goes on for hours and I know as I’m typing this that your saying “Well for God’s sake take some action over this!!!” well we have.
Last month there was an issue at school*** the end result of which was that we took my son’s devices off him for what in the end turned out to be two weeks and those two weeks were simply lovely. He played with his brother, he read, he sat downstairs and chatted with us and frankly he was a pleasure to be with. The mistake we made was not planning for what would happen when he got his things back and two weeks on here we are again.
When I was twelve and starting to disappear into my room like he does now it was for the following reasons:
i. To get away from everybody
ii. To read
iii. To eat crisps
iv. To listen to music
v. To masturbate****
When he goes upstairs he just seems to want to talk nonsense to his mates and post rude things on various apps and he tries way too hard to be cool – he’s lovely but he’s not cool. He’s ignoring his brother again, he gets cross when challenged and we feel that we’re failing as parents whilst simultaneously remembering that we too acted like twats at the same age.
Make no mistake, it is ace being a parent but by God it’s hard work and the worst thing is that I know it’s going to get harder before it gets better. We’ve taken the electronic devices away from him again but this time we’ve also hidden the obsolete ones that he tried to resurrect and use instead last time. He had to walk to school today with his Mum and brother and perhaps the worst punishment of all for him is that he’s had to listen to relationship advice from me.
I didn’t want to do that to him but if nothing else then surely the awfulness of having me sit on the end of his bed and talking to him about my experiences with girls will surely help him see the error of his ways and lead to him reuniting with his pals in school today. Or quite possibly it will scar him for life – I’m hoping for a combination of both.
Here’s the thing though, as sit here typing this, what I’ve failed to mention is that there was no call from the school last night. Either we wasted our evening berating our son or joy of joys this could be a parental nightmare rollover and when I get home this afternoon, slip into my armchair, take a sip of my cold drink, stick Pointless on and sigh out with a long “Ahh…” I know that the phone is going to ring and the voice at the other end of the line will say: “Hello is that Mr James?”
Either that or the school will have rung before I get home and as my wife is on an early finish today she’ll have to deal with it.
Follow me on Twitter to find out – follow me at @gruffsdad
*I know, I said “Duh.” – I let myself down there, don’t condemn me.
** Mrs Gruffsdad managed not to eat the tea I’d cooked as the chicken, despite being in the oven for ages and ages hadn’t cooked through properly even though I’d checked it with our meat thermometer and the needle hit the chicken on it and so it should have been okay but it wasn’t. Sausage sandwiches for tea this evening – surely I can’t screw them up.
*** This one involved a game of football and a boy with a clubbed foot. No wait, he really is lovely, honestly he is.
*** And so did you.