A LETTER TO MY TEENAGE SON

by Steve Clem on November 27, 2012

Dear N,

First off, I want you to know that you don’t know how badly I want to block you from the confusion and stress of life as a freshman in high school. But I can’t. Because if I did (which I wouldn’t anyway, but that’s another topic), well, you wouldn’t become the man you need to become.

I also want you to know, before I say anything that upsets you: please know I’m so proud of who you are as a person. You’re sensitive, you’re compassionate, you would do anything for anyone. You have an amazing sense of humor, and when you make me laugh, I still see the same smile I saw when you were a chubby little man who pooped himself (with less chubby cheeks, and more curly hair).

And son, you are amazingly bright. More so than I ever was.Your brain will let you do anything you want to do in life, if you just let it.

But I know it’s not that easy. You’ve gone through so many changes in the last six years. Your parents divorced. You suddenly had two homes, and two beds, and two drawers of socks that somehow always disappear from both places. And two sets of rules. And one house that’s mostly empty, yet cramped, which you share with a cat name Rose. And another house that’s rarely empty, with a stepbrother and sister — who aren’t actually “step” anything, yet you feel pressured to call them that when friends ask who they are.

Not to mention watching from the front row when my world crumbled apart around me four years ago.

And you also had to deal with a younger brother who sometimes required more attention from both your mom and me, and sometimes we put you in the role of caretaker at an age when it wasn’t fair to do so. I see the resentment you have for that, and it pains me. I wish I could erase that resentment. But as I said earlier, it’s not something I’m capable of doing, and I wouldn’t do it if I was. If there’s nothing else I’ve taught you since your mother and I divorced, I hope I’ve taught you how to fight through adversity.

Son, being a teenager sucks. I know that from my own youth. But being a teenager in a split home is something I know absolutely nothing about. Nothing. But I do know this: I’m not going to let you slip through the cracks. I’m not going to let you add to the statistics that go under the “broken home” category. I’m not going to give up on you. And I’m not going to let you give up on you either.

And now for the part you’re not going to like. You will not be playing Xbox, watching TV, or playing on your iPad or a computer or your phone for quite some time. You also will have to deal with me suddenly becoming a micromanager. I hate micromanagers. Because I’ve encountered them often in my life. Because apparently sometimes I need someone to micromanage me. And you have inherited more of my brain than your mother’s.

I’m not micromanaging you to be a jerk. I’m doing it to help you. Perhaps if I get to you early enough, you’ll realize how sucky micromanaging is and decide instead to self-manage. I learned it too late, so I still occasionally get to deal with someone kicking my butt into shape. I’d prefer you not go that route.

But I promise you that I won’t ask you where you want to go to college, or what you want to do when you grow up, or expect you to get straight As. I want you to be happy, and it’s clear to me that right now you aren’t. I also want you to be successful in whatever you want to do in life. The path toward that success and happiness is all up to you. I’m just looking for the end results. Because that’s how micromanagers do.

You and your brother know more than anyone else on this planet that I’m far from perfect. And I don’t expect you to be either. I just want you to show me that you have a spark inside you for something worthwhile in life. But I’m not going to force it out of you.

I love you, N. And I don’t expect you to tell me you love me. But I know deep down you do — or at least you will some day.

Dad

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