In my last column, I talked about the challenges of bringing up a teenager; a journey I’m just embarking on with my thirteen-year-old son. There’s a lot going on for me with this period of change but definitely not as much as what’s going on for him. It’s a time of huge change, not just physically and mentally but socially with his circle of friends. Moving in to the teenage years can bring huge pressure and expectation on what a teenager ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing, wearing, saying, etc. The peer pressure is immense and it’s a big step from those innocent primary school days. As parents, we only need to think back to our own experiences to empathise with that.
So I guess that’s my philosophy as we move in to this phase; my boy needs me. Even if he doesn’t make it clear he does. Or he makes out I’m the last person he needs around. There’s probably as much fear and uncertainty about life, as when he was younger, if not more so. But teenagers aren’t supposed to show it. Because it’s not cool to. And as a parent, that represents a new challenge. When my boy was younger, I knew if he got hurt, he’d cry and come to me for a hug. If he looked a bit sad, I’d pull a funny face or do something stupid to make him laugh. That doesn’t work for me anymore. He’s moved on. He’s much harder to read.
In a lot of ways, I’m lucky with my son. He’s a very sensitive boy and I can read him quite well. But it doesn’t make it any easier for him to express his emotions or talk about something that’s upset him. I guess this could be a number of things. It could be the cool teenage demeanour, I mentioned previously. Or it could be utter confusion on what this new soon-to-be adult life is all about. I’m in my forties and I still have trouble working it out. Or it could well be both. Who knows what’s going on in any 13 year olds head?
The love is as deep, if not deeper, than it ever was. It’s just different and we’re both finding our way through a new phase in our relationship. An ever-evolving father/son relationship.
I guess what’s most important to me, is that we remain close. We work on having a good, open and honest relationship and if he feels like he needs me, I’ll be there for him. As I mentioned in my previous column, I’m probably still grieving the loss of my son from his younger years. The years when your child comes running to the door, every time you come back from work and those snuggles on the sofa. But life moves on. The love is as deep, if not deeper, than it ever was. It’s just different and we’re both finding our way through a new phase in our relationship. An ever-evolving father/son relationship.
I think back to my own relationship with my father at the same age. It wasn’t easy. I wasn’t easy and I don’t think my Dad knew what to do with a teenager. I was the eldest of three, so it was new territory for my parents. And I was a grumpy bastard. I just saw my parents as pretty inconvenient really. I just wanted to be with my friends or by myself. I didn’t really want to hang out with my brothers either. I was just a typical, quite difficult teenager, trying to make sense of it all. The only ‘quality’ time I had with my father, was having private maths lessons (I was useless at school in this subject) at home but hating them. But my Dad really tried. And I knew that, even then.
In his own way, my Dad was trying to find a way to connect with me. To keep that bond going. He wanted me to need him but he wanted me to know that he was there for me too. Even to explain bloody algebra. But my resistance made it hard for him. So he worked on other areas where we could share an interest. It took him a while but he found it eventually; football.
…when I’m sat there, next to him, watching football, I know we’re as close as we’re ever going to be. And it’s the best feeling in the world.
My Dad took me to a few local matches; Lincoln City, Nottingham Forest mainly. And I loved it. When I eventually landed on my team, Tottenham Hotspur, he took me to the UEFA Cup Final at White Hart Lane in 1984. We won on penalties and it remains one of the happiest days of my life. We’d found our connection again. My Dad wasn’t a huge football fan but I could tell he was trying and he was doing it for me and for a Dad, you can’t ask for much more. Fast forward thirty years, my son and I have the same passion and connection and I take him to see the local Brighton games. And when I’m sat there, next to him, watching football, I know we’re as close as we’re ever going to be. And it’s the best feeling in the world.
Guy is a self-confessed show off, presenter on Juice FM in Brighton and telly regular. Outside of that, if he’s not getting enough attention, he hosts everything from comedy nights to corporate events. He’s also in a band and aims to avoid a proper job for as long as he can.