There’s a teenager in my house and he’s probably cooler than I am

Guest post by Rich Thomas

Remember when we first met Rich and his son? It’s been a while since Rich wrote a Step Dadaism post, but time stops for no one…

There is a teenager living in my house.

I don’t know how or when he got here, but his voice is low, the top portion of his underwear is permanently visible, and he feels very strongly that Justin Bieber’s version of The Christmas Song should be played all year round. He can also rap all the lyrics to Jay-Z and Kanye’s Ni***s In Paris, which I would be much more concerned about if I couldn’t rap all the lyrics to N.W.A.’s Real Ni***z Don’t Die when I was 13. And he eats. Constantly. Even between regular meals, the child is always consuming fuel — fruit, string cheese, apple chips, Funyuns, chocolate-covered goji berries. I have added short order cook, dietician and 7-11 employee to my resume.

While the majority of his friends have Facebook accounts, my wife and I have limited his social media exposure to Instagram, where he currently has 20 more followers than I do. He also gets consistently more double-taps on his images, and after previously wanting to limit our father/son interaction, he now hearts all the photos I post. He does this because he feels sorry for me. I found this out yesterday.

I’ve also discovered that 90% of his feedback comes from girls, which makes me both proud and uncomfortable. When I tell other parents that he doesn’t have a Facebook account, the standard reply is a hearty “Not that you know of!” I can’t tell whether or not they’re implying a lack of oversight on my part or a surplus of deception on the part of my child. Perhaps it’s nervous humor to mask the mismanagement of their own child’s social media exploits. Or maybe they’re just trying to be funny.

When it comes to girls, I’ve adopted the Fight Club principle. “The first rule of Girls is you don’t talk about Girls.” If you’re lucky enough to be made privy to a particular scenario, don’t offer a surplus of feedback, and whatever you do, don’t use it as a conversation starter at the dinner table. You have been trusted with state secrets of the highest order. Disclosure of said secrets in a public forum is grounds for immediate removal from the Circle of Trust.

You must also learn to accept all the horrendous pop music they’ve grown to love, which is a bit easier to do once you’ve mentally catalogued all the horrendous pop music you chose to identify with as a child. (If you’ve forgotten who those groups were, call your parents. They remember.) The Great Musical Enlightenment will come eventually, perhaps from an older cousin or a friend. MP3s, iPods, and the disappearance of CDs make it infinitely harder on today’s parents to school their kids on what’s good. The amount of time you have to expose your child to quality music is in direct proportion to the time it takes you to drive them to and from school. There is no escape in my Honda. You will listen to the new Squarepusher.

All this month, my Facebook Timeline has been flooded with back-to-school posts. “Where does the time go?” “I can’t believe my little boy is all grown up!” “This is the outfit my daughter picked out for her first day of middle school. WTF!?” Kids grow up quickly, but the 730 days between 11 and 13 fly by at Autobhan-like speeds. It is a teenager’s duty to convince themselves that their parents — previously the coolest humans on the planet — are now out of touch and embarrassing. Our job is to let them think they’re right, only to prove them wrong when they least expect it.

Luckily for us, that’s usually when they need it the most.

Comments on There’s a teenager in my house and he’s probably cooler than I am

  1. Aw, I love this! I won’t be the proud parent of a teenager for 12 more years, right now I am enjoying being the coolest person on the planet to my daughter haha.

    • Marina – The good part is, all his friends still think I’m cool, so at least I’ve got my street cred.

    • Ashes – I totally remember three. That’s when Kayden and I first met. Now he tries to out-chin-up me at the gym.

    • Thanks, Sara! Working on my next article now. Been inspired by some recent children’s books. Stay tuned!

  2. Totally feel you on the awful pop music. :/ Our tween can’t ask if he can change the radio fast enough whenn he gets into the car. Meh.

    I don’t quite understannd the ‘don’t talk about girls’ thing, though. My stepson has been talking about girls for a couple years now. We’ve pretty much covered all the birds and the bees conversation along the way. I’m glad that he’s so open and that we’ve been able to arm him with accurate information.

    • Hey Jocelyn – Oh, we definitely talk about them, and have a very open relationship, but most of our conversations about girls are initiated by him. I tried initiating casual conversation about girls and girlfriends a few times, and noticed that it irked him and I could tell he was uncomfortable. He knows that whenever there’s something he needs to discuss, he can discuss it with me in an open and safe environment, but I leave it up to him. We definitely have those “milestone” conversations as well: how to handle yourself regarding girls/break-ups/attraction on social media or little “gentle reminder” talks about etiquette and respect on the eve of things like school dances or parties.

  3. I just love when men guest post. It just has this tone to it that makes me laugh. I am preggers with a boy so I have a long time before this is me but I am looking forward to embarassing him.

  4. I believe in letting kids learn to think for themselves and make their own decisions, but the music question is just too important to leave to their peers. 😀 If my 12-year-old had ever come home listening to Bieber or Jay-Z, it might’ve gotten ugly. Fortunately, I’ve been filling his head with the right stuff since before birth, so he’s got a healthy disdain for the mindless pop (though I cry with laughter at his hearty renditions of “Rabies, Rabies, Rabies, OH!”).

    Now, he did drag Skrillex home, but I sort of had already downloaded his body of work, so I couldn’t actually complain. 😛 Still, when my kid is quietly singing Soundgarden to himself whilst doing homework, I think I did an ok job!

    • When I was my son’s age, I was on a steady diet of Wilson Phillips and En Vogue. Now, you can argue the merit of those bands as opposed to someone like Bieber, but it’s still pop at the pinnacle of the genre. But here’s the thing about pop music. It works only when it’s relatable. I can’t relate to Bieber songs because of the content, but 13-year old’s can. And at that age, it’s all about identifying with what you’re hearing. As long as he’s having a deep connection to music, that’s really all I care about. Taste comes later.

      • I “This”ed your comment, but I think I have to add to it. I was raised on my father’s favorite Classic Rock. As a teenager, I still loved the Stones and Skynard and discovered Led Zeppelin all on my own (Dad wasn’t a fan until I became one, which I think is funny). However, I, too, was all about Wilson Phillips and En Vogue and the pop stars of the early ’90s. (We must be roughly the same age, Rich!).

        And, the thing is, I STILL love pop music. I am unashamed to say that the first time I heard Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, I was blown away. And my daughter’s favorite Disney Channel princesses’ tracks are incredibly catchy and fun.

        But my favorite love song of all time is still a toss up between NIN “Closer” and Zep’s “All Of My Love”.

        So… yeah. My point: (there is one, I promise). I “This!”ed you, Rich, because you’re right about the relevance of Pop music. But I also think that we, as parents, can definitely shape our kids’ ultimate taste in music by exposing them to what we deem awesome. The important thing, in my opinion, is to encourage them to develop their own favorites. Because, as you said, the important thing is to develop a connection to music itself.

        /ramble

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