Simon, 14

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 5, 2024, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

What a strange year to think about my one and only child. We've managed to get him this far, and now he's technically just four years away from legal adulthood. It's really hard to wrap my head around that.

Being the parent of a teenager is one of the hardest things that I've had to do in life. I'm not particularly good at it. By that, I mean I am very impatient. That's not a good mix with a kid at an age where he wants to challenge literally everything. The thing that feeds into this is a desperate feeling that he's going through a lot of the same things that I did, and not the good parts. He's not me, but it's hard to separate what looks like a remake of a movie.

Simon is already asking about why he has to learn anything that they put in front of him, which creates a lot of fear in me. What's worse is that I now see that so much of the system intended to accommodate neurodiverse kids lacks significant accountability for the kid. The balance is completely out of whack. It's a disincentive to even try something when you know that someone will help you, especially when you're a teenager that would rather be doing anything else. My perception is that a lot of what makes it difficult to do homework is starting, especially when it involves writing. Like me, he's often not interested in the work to arrive at certain outcomes. His odds of going to college seem pretty mixed, and while I don't think it's entirely necessary, the numbers favor college grads for quality of life.

Socially, he has still not really found his tribe. When I pick him up from school and he's sitting alone on a bench, it's heartbreaking. That was me. I know what that feels like. I'm crossing my fingers that high school will be different, and we're committed to trying to get him involved in things.

The thing is, when he's not doing teenage boy stuff, he can be a funny kid. He's interested in music. He wants to know how things work. He's borderline obsessed with theme park attractions. He's fun when we're doing fun things. He's fiercely independent on cruises and often at theme parks. He loves helping with the foster cats. He can be generally delightful at times.

One of my favorite times with him last year was when he helped me out shooting for my rum documentary (which I'll edit someday). He took a real interest in understanding how the equipment worked and was eager to be responsible for things.

It's possible that he's outgrown photos with Elsa, because that's embarrassing, but cruises continue to be a safe place for him to be himself, do things on his own and generally be a happy kid.

I think the day that I realized just how tall the kid was getting was this day, when we did a Segway tour in Mt. Dora. Mind you, everyone is a few inches taller on one, but it felt extra obvious that day.

Our trip around Northern Europe was obviously the highlight of our year. It's a trip that we put off for years because we figured that it would be difficult to keep him engaged and fed. A cruise was an obvious choice, because it solved both problems (and London and Copenhagen at the bookends obviously have McDonald's). It was also a great way to sample a bunch of countries without devoting waking hours to being on planes. This was our first of two stops in Iceland, this one just outside of Reykjavik.

On the last full day of our trip, disembarking in Copenhagen, we visited Tivoli Gardens. Impossibly, a bunch of young women in another country started shouting Simon's name. It ended up being some of the youth counselors from the ship, who were making a quick day trip to the park. They're always so good to him, and it's emotional to say goodbye.

One of his prize possessions, something he bought, was an electronic MagicBand. Mostly it glows and does stuff in certain places in the theme parks and on the ships, in conjunction with a phone app.

When he does get it in his head that he wants to buy something, he starts looking for ways to make money around the house, which I don't mind. In this case, it was power washing the driveway.

For all of the drama and frustration, we do have some good times together. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when we're struggling with school work and responsibilities.

We spent part of Christmas volunteering at Give Kids The World again this year, so I guess that makes it a tradition now. When it comes to philanthropy, he kind of oscillates between what's in it for him and the benefit of serving others.

Simon had his first dance this year, which as best I can tell went about as expected. Mom was there as a chaperone, which I suspect made a huge difference in his decision to even attend.

We once again started his birthday week at Splitsville, which is expensive, but I suppose worth it once a year. He still uses the bumpers, but the ball ramp is a distant memory for this kid standing about 5'4".


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