Wyatt (5-years-old) holding two cups on his chest
I asked my friend Glen to write about his experience suddenly becoming a father to a grown boy. Here’s his story…
By Glen Starkey
I was 50 when I first married, acquiring—along with my bride—a 10-year-old boy named Jaden who felt not so much that he was gaining a stepfather as that he was losing his mother. Suddenly his mother had someone. What did he have? Less attention from his mom and some dude whose house he now lived in.
It wasn’t as if his father wasn’t in the picture. His dad, an excellent but underemployed musician, lived—still lives—in a tree house and can supply little to his son’s welfare beyond emotional support and a weekly outing or two.
What did I know about fatherhood, or even step-fatherhood? I’ve never had kids before. I’d only lived with a woman once before, about 25 years prior, and that lasted a whopping, painful six months. Not only was I navigating for the first time a truly committed romantic relationship, I also had a little man in my life, and I could barely remember what it was like to be 10.
I guess I should backtrack for a moment. It wasn’t like my relationship with my wife was some whirlwind. We dated for seven months before she and her son moved in, lived together for a year before I asked her to marry me, and were engaged for another year before we tied the knot. I’ve known Jaden since he was eight, and this summer he’ll turn 12. We haven’t killed each other yet… so that’s good.
Of course, my relationship with Jaden has, like all relationships, gone through ups and downs. I’ve tried to be his pal. I’ve been forced to scold him when he misbehaves. It’s been difficult getting him to pitch in and help out around the house. He’s an only child who’s spent a lot of time with his doting grandparents, so our house can feel repressive to him, even though I think we sometimes spoil him rotten. Buying his “love” is a trap. I know this. It’s all a challenge. But I’ve tried to find ways to make it work and to build a closer relationship.
When he and his mother first moved in, I asked a friend whose marriage had just been destroyed by his wife’s teenage son if he had any advice for me. His stepson had so grown to hate him, my friend feared for his life… or for what he might have to do to his stepson to defend himself. He told me, “Touch him every day and tell him you love him every day.”
Yeah, the touching thing seemed a little creepy to me too, but I started to put my hand on Jaden’s shoulder when I’d see him, bump into him a bit when we walked somewhere, and squeeze him onto the couch when we watched TV. I told him every day, “I love you, little man,” and he’d say back, “I love you, man.”
I don’t have any magic formula for dealing with the reality of suddenly having a kid in your life. It’s a day-to-day thing. Sometimes it can be tough. I look at his face and I see my beautiful wife and I see Jaden’s dad. I don’t see me. I’m not in there. Jaden doesn’t act like me; he doesn’t think like me; sometimes I don’t think he thinks at all.
He can sometimes be an insolent little dick. I keep waiting for him to scream, “Fuck you! You’re not my dad!” It seems like he’s 11 going on 14. But I try to focus on all the things I like about him. Like me, he can be sensitive. He cares about other people and animals. He worries about the fate of the world. He likes to draw and create. He’s smart and funny. He also has his dad’s talent for music, and when he sings in his sweet, high voice and plays his ukulele, I swell with pride and tear up at how good he is even though I know I have nothing to do with those talents.
Every single day I try to remember he’s my kid now, too. My son. My responsibility. When I made a commitment to his mom, I made a commitment to him. I’ve always believed that love isn’t just an emotion; it’s also a decision. And I’ve decided on love.
On Sunday, I was jumping on a friend’s trampoline with Wyatt and Boone. They wanted me to bounce them around, so they were tucked in little balls while I jumped near them, sending them in the air.
We were all having a blast until one of Wyatt’s legs slipped out just as I was coming down. I shifted my foot mid-descent to avoid snapping his leg and landed directly on the side of my ankle.
Now, I can barely walk. I’m using an old golf club as a cane as I hobble around on what feels like the worst sprain I’ve ever had.
The good news is this now justifies the purchase of that cane with hidden sword I’ve always wanted.
(image via edgesofreality.com)
I told my boys an evil agency had taken up residency in the living room. Sinister agents were everywhere. I needed them to sneak into the room to retrieve some spy tools the bad guys could use to wreak havoc on the good citizens of the city. These tools resembled sneakers, but they contained small jets that allow the wearer to fly.
Once they stealthily stole and donned the rocket shoes, they’d need to get the rest of their equipment—held in seemingly innocuous backpacks—and go undercover at a secret military installation to find a magic jewel. You see, when the sun hits the jewel just right, it reveals a map to a treasure the bad guys would use to buy all manner of weapons and vehicles to take over the world.
The best way to infiltrate this installation was to pose as regular students, since the base looked remarkably like the boys’ school. They’d need to maintain the ruse all day and act like stellar students to gain the trust of the officials at the base.
I asked them if they could handle the mission. They answered in the affirmative.
For the first time in weeks, we were on time for school.
I hope the son sees this when he gets older
These kind of jokes are super funny until the kid repeats them in front of his teacher or, y’know, a cop.
If you read one thing today, please read this.
Why do parenting writers and bloggers write? Charlie of how2beadad gives his reason, which crosses three generations.