The Perils of the Sullen Teen

Today we have to go to my fiancés cousin’s baby’s baptism. As a heavy metal listening, anti-organised religion, mildly antisocial homebody, this is a daunting event which mean getting dressed up, going to a church (and hoping I don’t get struck by lightning), and dragging along 4 equally dressed up children who also have no desire to be in a church watching a religious ceremony.

Why don’t we just not go? Family. We love our families, and we are definite believers in putting your own discomforts or wants and needs aside for those you love. It’s about an hour out of our lives, to show family we care and help celebrate their beautiful baby. That being said, we have a teenager. Kill me now. He’s in that “I don’t want to do anything I don’t like” phase, which is compounded with the reality that he knows he’s old enough to stay home and look after himself.

Our blended family is quite new, and the extended family don’t know me and the kids very well yet. It makes it extra hard because right now we need to attend as much as we can, to be involved in family life, to integrate ourselves properly. Our new family are so wonderful too, they go out of their way to make us welcome and they get worried if we aren’t at an event. I have been so lucky to end up with such an amazing extended family. This does mean, our eldest needs to attend more than another teenager generally might be forced into – and I know he’s resenting me for enforcing it.

This is a challenge for blended family parents for sure – and it brings about a word I use a lot, because it’s so relevant – “balance”. Finding that balance of allowing a sullen teenager to stay home and play Xbox, vs forcing them to man up and do what’s right for their family. In this situation, at this point in time, the balance is tipped towards dragging him to more events.

I just have to hope he eventually understands why and doesn’t hate me in the meantime. We talk about the reasons why, and concepts of family and doing things for other people but, come on, he is a teenager for Christ sake. I can’t expect much from him can I? If he gets through the day without me having to kill him I’ll have to say a big thanks to him and try to make it up to him with some extra device time or something.

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We apologise for this interruption in life due to technical issues

The phrase that makes me shake my head at myself in disgust, that I use on my kids regularly, is something along the lines of “When I was your age…”. I think it’s probably top of the list of things every parent hopes they will NEVER say. The context in which I use it the most would have to be in regards to leisure activities. “When I was their age..” we did have computers, VCR’s, Records/Tapes/CD’s, basic portable video games – some form of everything which they have today. The difference was, they were always a secondary concern. We grew up playing games with kids in backyards, or in the streets, riding bikes, skateboarding, playing sports, hanging out for hours, playing board games, Lego, swimming – fairly typical aussie kids.

Nowadays, looking at kids across the board (not just mine), kids in general just don’t do much of that anymore. There is a huge drive towards devices. It doesn’t matter what it’s for. It could be for watching stuff, playing games, chatting, general reading, browsing the internet etc. They even do colouring in, in apps, instead of on paper with texters (GRR!). With my kids, I find it’s totally mood dependent. They can happily ignore their devices and have a great time playing games or going outside to shoot hoops etc., but sometimes they just won’t get off the damned things unless I get cranky. Personally, I find the balance really hard. Their mother is extremely strict, almost a technophobe nowadays, and I find myself having to allow more leniency to devices in my house because I actually do disagree with her stance on device time. The problem being, I don’t like over-balance the other way. I desperately want to maintain a happy and healthy medium, which is really tough to do.

 

I also find myself thinking about the way the world is now, the benefits the additional communication with friends and family brings them, the skills they are gaining utilising technology (even if it’s playing a game), and I have to allow for this too. All of these factors at play, that balance is so tough. I have dedicated daily reading time they must do, and if I find they aren’t spending any time outside I’ll force the issue on that. I also encourage them to spend time on arts and crafts type activities but still, they are drawn back continually to the technology. I often wonder if it’s a losing battle.

 

I know a lot of their peers don’t have the same issues at home as I do. Many of them have multiple devices, games consoles, their own TV’s etc., and their parents are very flexible or completely free with the usage. That makes it hard on my kids, because they think I’m a hard ass old man living in the past. Anyway, right or wrong I think I will keep up trying to maintain the balance as best I can unless someone has brighter ideas. The one thing technology brings though, is obedience – MUWHAHAHAHA. I have to admit it’s a lovely carrot to dangle to bring bad behaviour back in line, or to ensure they do their chores before letting all their spare time be eaten up and saying “oh sorry I forgot”. Yes yes, I’m a mean old man, but at least someone else cleaned up the dog crap in the backyard or emptied the dishwasher so I didn’t have to 😛

St. Creditcard Day

Happy hallmark holiday everyone! It’s that time of year again, when flower prices increase by 200%, when you finally feel the Christmas financial stress dropping away only to realise the gods of love demand a sacrifice of flowers, cards, chocolates, dinners and anything else romantic and expensive. It’s the time when men dread hearing women ask “So, what did YOU get for Valentine’s day?”. That is not a conversation any man wants to be on the losing end of 😛 

I’m lucky, my fiance and I are the type of couple that talk about these things and decide what we want to do together. Last year, we opted to go away for the weekend, and we had the most amazing, peaceful, romantic time in the mountains just enjoying each other’s company. This year, we’ve swapped that for kids. Well, Valentine’s day has fallen smack bang on a Tuesday, and life doesn’t stop. We have kids, work, and a household to run. That being said, I’m sure we’ll do something belated in the form of date night, but to be honest we are the sappy type of couple that doesn’t need a specific day a year to show each other how much we love each other.

 

So, tonight will be a romantic meal of enchiladas, followed by making lunches, prepping for work and general cleaning, all topped off with a healthy dose of ass on couch time once the munchkins start heading off to bed. Would I like to go out for a romantic meal alone with her? Sure, but we wouldn’t trade time with the kids for anything.

 

I do, however, need to ensure the other loves of my life know how special they are. We have to pick up some of the rainbow roses for the girls. Especially in a blended household, I think it’s important the girls know mum/step-mum isn’t the only special lady around. The boys? They will be happy with some chocolate or a bowl of ice-cream, and some Xbox time 😛 Don’t cry sexist at me, you can’t help human nature!

 

Anyway, enjoy your hallmark holiday or Valentine ’s Day (depending how you look at it), but don’t forget to share that love more than once a year people.

Circus Freaks

Nothing tests your ability to juggle like a circus freak spinning flaming chainsaws through the air like a new school year. It’s amazing how quickly your life goes from relative normalcy day to day, to a creeping panic about managing everything and fitting everything in. First you get back into the logistics of day to day school needs (uniforms, lunches etc.), then it’s the school commitments (carnivals, sports etc.), then it’s the extracurricular sports coming back in, then all the school meetings and extra school items (parents nights, school photos), and the list goes on. 

Not to mention, you’re juggling the finances to make it all happen. In come the registration costs for sports and activities, new sports gear required, and the little extra bus fare money the schools charge for excursions etc. now. To make that even harder, you might have a household like mine, where you have to deal with not one, but two additional parents (my ex-wife and my fiancés ex-husband). Discussions around costs, authorisation for activities, agreements on who will do what and when. The logistics are so painful, and unless you’re one of those weirdo’s who remain friends with their ex-wife/husband, you really don’t want to be having all these chats either!

 

The good thing is when you have two divorced parents who want to do everything they can for the children, it does run a lot smoother most of the time. In my case I’m pretty lucky there. We tend to agree on a lot of things. My fiancé on the other hand, can often have a nightmare of a time just simply out of her ex-husband feeling the need to make things more difficult, because he can. You can’t win them all, but I guess it’s all about playing the long game and hoping eventually they come around and realise making things easier only benefits their child.

 

Personally, I learnt a long time ago the less conflict about the kids and their needs – the easier life is, and of course the key to it all – good communication. If you can communicate what’s going on in all aspects of the kids’ lives, and are able to discuss their needs and what each parent has to do to meet those needs, life is a lot simpler. Given the amazing amount of juggling we have to do just to get through a week, we need things as simple as possible!

GNfR Baby!

On Friday night my fiance and  went to see Guns N’ Roses “Not in this lifetime” tour. I’d bought her the tickets last year as an anniversary present since she’s a huge gunners fan. After many months impatiently waiting, the night finally came – and it was awesome. Seeing the band (mostly) back together, and performing most of the songs that our generation grew up on, was incredible. Neither my fiance or I had seen them live when we were younger so it was a first for us both.

We don’t get out to concerts usually. The cost of tickets here in Aus is quite high, support acts are often rubbish, and of course there is simply always better things to spend the money on when you have kids. Thank god I had an anniversary as an excuse to lash out on the tickets for her 🙂

There were actually a lot of kids at the concert, which as a parent had me both thinking “man these kids are cool!” and “wow, this is so inappropriate”. If you’re a gunners fan you know there is a shitload of swearing in their songs. We were near this one kid, who’s parents (like me) were seated the whole time and just enjoying the music, and he was up and head banging away. Coolest. kid. ever.

Seeing that, it got me thinking about how I always wanted at least one of my kids to be into metal like I am, but they all love the top 40 pop crap 😦 Thinking about this, I realised I probably gave them a disservice growing up by not exposing them to my music at an earlier age. Metal is very full on. Yes, the bulk of metal doesn’t involve swearing, but musically – there is a LOT going on and it’s an assault to the senses if you aren’t used to it. For a long time I would just let them listen to their mothers music / the radio, and would save my music for when I was alone. Thinking about that now I think I was wrong.

I think parents should expose their kids to much more musically, to broaden their experiences and open them up to what they might like, prior to our preconceived preferences start to pull at the kids. Yes, kids have minds of their own but there is no denying we as parents play a heavy influence on that.

One thing I’ve tried to give the kids is a tolerance for other peoples music tastes. As one of the only metal kids in high school, I was extremely ostracized for my music tastes. This carries on through life. People will happily listen to pop / hip hop songs about getting drunk on the weekend, partying, and having sex or forgiving a boyfriend for cheating on you, but put on a metal song about the atrocities of war, battling depression, political climates, or any other topical song – and people ask you to “turn that shit/noise off”. There is no tolerance for metal.

My eldest likes a lot of the guitar work in metal, and does now enjoy the song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” which makes him my sweet child, and the boys love “Victory Lap” by “All that Remains” so there is hope yet 🙂 Maybe his tastes will head that way like mine did at his age, or maybe not. If he can at least let people enjoy the music they love, I have to be happy with knowing he’s a good guy.

Balancing Act

Im not a career driven individual. Honestly, for many reasons I wish I was. When I was a teenager, I worked many jobs – catering, pizza delivery, paperboy, bar & waiting jobs etc. I was always working, and working hard. I believe having passion for something you have to spend the bulk of your adult life doing is really important. In my teens I had a passion to work in hospitality, but that ended up fizzling out. I came to the conclusion at 20 that it wasn’t for me. I then fell into a career in IT, because I ‘understood’ computers and found I was capable. 

4 kids and 20 something years later, I’m still working in IT. Unfortunately I’ve never had a passion for it, and have bounced from job to job trying to find some level of basic happiness/job satisfaction. Why do I do it? Plain and simple, it pays the bills. I ‘m very jealous of people doing what they love for a living. I’ve been asking myself most of my adult life what I would do if I wasn’t doing IT, or what I would love to do, and I don’t have answers.

 

My work life balance just isn’t there. I work to live, plain and simple. I try to have a flexible job with low touch out of hours work, to maximise my time for my family. In reality, I know that isn’t good for my career but I can’t deny I’ve loved how much I’ve been around for the kids through their lives. I’ve been there for so many milestones, I’ve had so much more time with them rather than coming home, putting them in the bath and then to bed. I wouldn’t swap that for anything. To be honest I always felt I should have been a stay at home dad. I think I have such a great drive at organising the home and kids and I would have enjoyed it way more than the kids mother did, but the reality is I happened to be the one more capable of bringing home the $$$ so that was not meant to be.

 

Some dad’s may be content they can spend some time on the weekend with the kids, and take them for big flashy holiday’s once a year, but I wouldn’t trade my closeness with the kids, having been there to watch them grow, to watch the performances at school, to attend their presentation days, even to watch basic things like some of the athletics carnivals. All of these experiences I share with them scream “I love you” to the kids, and I feel that in return with them all the time.

 

In regards to the kids future careers, I try to encourage them to explore their passions, to find something in life that will make them happy. I don’t want them focussing on what others say is a good career, or worrying about how much money they will make doing it. I want them to get up every morning thinking today will be a great day, even though they are going to work (or even better, it will be a great day BECAUSE they are going to work!). I may not be a role model for this, but at the same time at least I’m hoping they will learn from my experiences.