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excuse me while i disappear


So this weird thing happened two or three weeks ago: in the middle of the night, some aliens or MIBs or something snuck into my house while we were asleep, and they replaced my sweet, reasonable children with Teenagers.

Overnight, I went from pretty cool to really annoying, and questions that were usually answered with phrases like, "Okay," or "I'll do it in just a minute," or "Yes," were suddenly met with "Whatever." or "GOD!" or my personal favorite, stony silence with the rolling eyes and exasperated sigh.

It's so weird, man. And the thing is, my doors were all locked, and my windows were all closed . . . so my theory is that the Aliens or MIBs or whatever don't actually enter the house. Instead, they use some sort of parabolic mirror to direct a tractor beam through the walls, which we can't see or hear, and they pull the old switcheroo from orbit. I have no idea what they do with the sweet, reasonable pre-teens they take away, though. The current operating theory is that they need their youthful exuberance for fuel or something, but it's just a theory.

I called my mom, and told her how things had suddenly gotten really challenging as a parent, and you know what she did? She put her hand over the phone, and shouted to my dad, "Finally! It's Payback, Rick!" I'm pretty sure I heard my dad shout out something like, "Woo!" or "Yeehaw!" from another room . . .

Anyway, I'm taking a crash course in parenting teenagers, which is fundamentally different from parenting pre-teens. It's not even like switching from vi to emacs . . . it's more like switching vi to emacs and someone re-assigned your keyboard and changed the language and now the damn thing reboots randomly and though occasionally it makes sense, most of the time you're so goddamned confused you wonder why you bought a fucking computer in the first place. The weirdest thing is how suddenly the pod-people arrived. It really did happen overnight (or maybe in the span of two days, but not longer than that.)

A couple of things I've learned, that I offer up, free of charge, to anyone parenting a teenager, or about to parent a teenager:

  1. When we say, "no," what they hear is, "ask me again in a slightly different way in about ten minutes, and act like it's the first time you've asked me. Or you could go ask your mom, and pretend that we haven't talked. The most important thing is, you must act as if we haven't had this conversation, and keep asking me until you get whatever it is you want."
  2. No matter what we as parents do, we are so unreasonable.
  3. No matter what my parents say, I was never this irrational when I was a teenager.
  4. Whatever it is they want to do, all their friends get to do it, with their parents' blessing.
  5. Music is better when it's so loud the bass distorts. (Yes, I realize the irony of my "If it's too loud, you're too old" T-shirt from 11th grade.)
  6. Even though they may act like they totally hate us, they still love us. It's just that their brains are all fucked up right now, and they need our help to figure out what the hell is going on (but won't admit it, and don't know how to ask for it).

Interesting note: for a few reasons that are nobody's business, Anne and I limited TV and withdrew the video games recently, and once the storming around and exasperated sighing (which, I've learned, is the base currency of all teenage communication) ended, the first thing the kids did was ask if they could get my D&D books out of my office and play with their friends. So Ryan is learning how to DM, and Nolan is making a Drow (He is a huge fan of Drizzt Do'Urden and the Forgotten Realms). While they were in my office, Nolan pulled out all my old DiscWars sets, and has been teaching all his friends how to play it (and extracting promises from me to play with him as soon as I get a chance to re-learn the rules.)

So there's this interesting-and-cool thing happening: naturally, because they're teens, they're pulling away a little bit, figuring out who they are, and pushing against Anne and me as we define their age-appropriate limits, so a lot of the things we used to do together are so lame now . . . except for nerdy gaming. They LOVE the nerdy gaming, and it has become a conduit for me to communicate with them, as well as remain a part of their life. Ryan even told me the other day, "I want to start a club at school that's for nerds to do nerdy stuff, but I want to have, like, Masonic Degrees for nerds."

"What degree are you?" I said.

"I don't know," he said, "But you are a 33rd degree nerd."

I didn't ask him if there was a secret handshake, because I didn't want to be so lame.

On the alt.country binge: I bought two from the Asylum Street Spankers, who remind me of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but bawdier, and Joe Henry's Trampoline the oher day from iTunes (look out for those iTunes benders! Before you know it, you've spent 50 bucks, if you're not careful!), and so far I love it. In fact, I've been listening to it while I write this, and it's a perfect soundtrack for this entry. Gods, I love it when music does that, don't you?

To bring this back full circle(-ish): In all honesty, the kids are mostly good and still enjoyable, and I know better than to take the normal teenage behavior personally. Learning how to deal with them as teens has been very helpful for me and Anne . . . but my family (and raising kids who will become productive and respectable members of society) is more important to me than anything else in the world, so contributions to my blog will probably slow down for the very near future while I master this new set of skills I'm picking up . . . though Shane recently threw down a gauntlet at me, e-mail-style, that may result in a giant pile of writing over the next few weeks.

Or not.

Stay tuned, if that's your thing.

Editorial note: Please, please, please see the humor in this entry. My life isn't falling apart, everything is really fine at home, and my relationship with my stepkids isn't faltering or in danger or anything like that. Thanks.

Comments

Condolences on the sudden appearance of teenagers in your home, Wil. You'll get through it, as unlikely as it appears right now.

But what I really wanted to comment on was your recent purchase of Asylum Street Spankers recordings. Which ones did you get? The Spankers are one of the very, very best things about living in Austin.

At least they are going down the correct geeky path!

I'm 19, so you could say that I'm right now moving out of this phase. All I can say is that the worst thing you can do is treat them like their brains are messed up right now. Yes, a lot of it is hormones, but a lot of it is them realizing that they're growing up, they have opinions that actually matter, yet they feel like they're stuck living in a house with people who have the opinions that REALLY matter. And they're helpless to do anything about it.

I'm not saying that you should obey their every demand, but understand how frustrating it is for them to be always treated like there's something wrong with them as soon as they disagree with you.

Cause that sucks.

You've hit upon a big part of the challenge, Shky: because we're parents, part of our job is to make sure our kids don't get into any serious danger, but we also have to allow them to make their own decisions and enjoy the consequences (both good and bad) for the choices they make. Just because they think they're ready for some new freedom or responsibility, doesn't mean that they are . . . and the ensuing discussions can be really tough.

Luckily for me, my stepkids are extremely intelligent, and they still listen to reason, mostly.

My oldest is only 8 (in two weeks) and he's a very bright child. My wife and I have already noticed a certain impatience and brusqueness that was not there at the beginning of the summer. His reply to most things is 'I KNOW!!!' with the customary eyeroll (WHERE do they learn that?). My wife and I keep hoping we'll have 6 more years before the podpeople fully arrive. B/c he has EXACTLY my personality, I fear a particularly angry podperson is in my future.

Good luck, Wil.

I'm 23, and a lot of the time I feel like I only just stopped being a teenager, or a kid for that matter, since my parents kept a fairly strict rein on us kids. I still get pretty excited at getting to do grown-up things: "hey, I can do this by myself now!" "I don't have to ask anyone's permission!" I wasn't ever one of those kids who outright rebelled against their parents, though I did have my moments, but I'd agree with Shky: the last thing a teen wants is to be treated like s/he isn't mature enough to think things through and deal with things in an adult way. Sure, a lot of the time, they can't, but the important thing is they think they can. And how would they know otherwise? We all have such limited perspective on the world when we're young. I know I still do, though I'm lots smarter about things than I was when I was 16. They feel like they've grown up a lot, and that's probably true. So treat them as the grown-ups they think they are (becoming), as much as you can while still taking care of them and making sure bad things don't happen to them.

I bet I'll take this all back when I've got my own kids, but from where I am right now, that's what I have to say.

And once more: good luck!

Wil, you're going to do just fine raising teenagers. You're a kind hearted person. Speaking of stepkids, my mom got in the car for the first time with my 15 year old step-sister today. Surprisingly she didn't freak out like she did with me when I had my learner's permit. HAHA!!!!

True enough Wil. And who knows, I'll probably be singing a different tune if I ever have kids. 'Til then, though... damn parents...

Wil, you're going to do just fine raising teenagers. You're a kind hearted person. Speaking of stepkids, my mom got in the car for the first time with my 15 year old step-sister today. Surprisingly she didn't freak out like she did with me when I had my learner's permit. HAHA!!!!

I'm glad to hear the boys are taking to D&D so much. That shows that they have creative inclinations, which is VERY rare in teenagers these days (at least the ones I deal with). That it gives you a bridge to stay in touch with them (my mom would have flipped and quoted the Bible verbatim from memory if I had brought a single sourcebook or compendium home) is even more awesome. Good luck, Wil!

"Teenagers. You give them an inch, they swim all over you..." --- Sebastian

/can't believe I quoted The Little Mermaid...

Your mother was right and it's only just begun! Not to worry, it will pass when they are about 30.

that first point you've got, from a teen's point of view, goes "let's ask again, only ask a little more reasonable, and beg until we get what we want. then if we don't get it, we'll act extremely pissed until you give in." usually works, too.
=]

hmmmmm
so you are taking time away from here to play nerdy games with the boys??? *grins* that is why I like you so much - keep doing it - you really are a great dad. (I wish my dad was more like you)

I dread my boys getting older - oldest is 10
What I would give to have them talk to me now. People really don't know how blessed they are to have kids that can talk to you.

My best time on games is 5 minutes - youngest did that on candy lane - this summer. He is 8 but at least he made the ginderbread men go to the end of trail & then join the non-playing ones -- he is getting better. He will now sign for "sit" & "eat"

Our one-and-only is completely a 'Tween, headed straight for Teen, and dragging us along in her wake.

We have a cardinal rule at our house, and it is very simple; if you want to be treated as an adult, you have to act like an adult FIRST.

It works... most of the time...

As a Mother of two teenagers (both boys), I feel your pain. My youngest has just hit the threshold but my oldest is almost 18. For most of the period between 15 until now a lot of the responses I got ranged from grunts to dramatic outbursts, with a smattering of chatty days which threw me off but I enjoyed them. The good part is we were and are still able to talk about the serious stuff very openly. That ulimately is the goal, to keep the lines of communication open, with a bit of understanding on both sides that it's not easy to be a teenager, but it's not so easy to be the parent of one either. Enjoy them and your time together it goes by so darn quickly.

As a person who has witnessed you and Anne interact with your two boys, I must say I have the utmost faith in you as parents, and I know you'll handle the "terrible-teens" period they are in with grace. There will be ups and downs as they test their boundaries and yours, but I think they'll come out A-OK. :D

My sixteen year old can be the sweetest most kindest considerate guy in the universe, except when he is not. It is amazing -- the emotional flipflops that can happen within moments. This is my second time through on parenting a teen, and my only suggestion is the one that applies in general in dealing with the human race -- when you're talking, you ain't listening. And in silence many, many things can be said, and heard.

My dad died when I was JUST entering this stage of life, so my mom got the full force of all my teenager wrath. I was really horrible to her. I moved out at sixteen and didn't even speak to her for years! Now I'm nearly 21 and call her or email her almost every day. And I apologise almost every time for the way I treated her during my teenage years.

The funny thing is that now my brother and sister are 14 and 12, and they're SO MEAN to her and my stepdad...yet they behave exactly how I did at that age. And even though I'm 20 and the 'cool' older sister, I'm still 'so lame' because if they mouth off to my mom or stepdad in front of me, I'm the first one to mouth off back to them and illustrate how very rude they're being. It's pretty funny, actually.

Anyway, this is a pretty cool book (even if it's a little outdated). I think I'm going to print out parts one and two and ask my siblings to read them. I wish I'd read something like that when I was a teenager. Though I probably would've just brushed it off as lame :P

I am WITH YOU. I have a very sweet almost 14-yr-old who has been a CHANGLING for a couple years now. My worst moments are catching her in the middle of bad lies. She is so bad at lying!

The teen thing creeps up on you gradually, then suddenly. They have to pull away and become nerds of their own - not so attached. And change is so hard! We will surely grow through this . . . and reap the rewards of so much time invested up to this point.

Finding the common ground is your best bet. For you, the gaming. For me, we have developed a bond through comedy. We are currently devoted to seeing every EDDIE IZZARD DVD ever recorded.

Wow. Sounds more like going from Linux to Windows!

I haven't had the chance to be a parent (this isn't an emotional confession, I just don't have children), and I kind of regret that. Sounds like you and Anne are doing a great job.

I'd like to propose an alternate theory to the parabolic mirrors and tractor beam deal. Perhaps aliens are performing species mixing and implanting teenagers with that part of a cat's brain that goes from fuzzy/purry to shredding claws of doom. I'm not saying your teenagers are destructive by any means, but I know my cat rolled its eyes at me all the time...

As a middle school teacher, I can tell you that the "Alien" descends and takes over your child sometime between the 6th & 9th grade. The "Alien" will leave sometime during high school or early college. And since all children develop differently, there can be variations to this time line of alien infestation. However, your sweet children will come back someday...until then, good luck with the "aliens."

Ok, since they are now teenagers, time to just accept that you are enemy number one in their quest for social independence. Any attempt on your part to be anything other then their enemy will only result in their distrusting you even more.

So, my advice: When they start acting all indignate, thank them for giving you the power to [insert favorite cuss word] up their life. Then laugh meniacly. They will be truly irritated instead of teenage acting irritated to get under your skin.

Ok, all kidding aside, stick to your guns. The best thing you can do is be consistant with your values and beliefs. Also, please, please, please refrain from attempts to tell them how they should feel. I still remember how much I hated that, and I am 43 years old, for crying out loud.

Another thing, if they act up with you in front of their friends, you are free to embarrass them in front of their friends. Oh, and they will definitely act up in front of their friends. Again, when they complain, thank them for giving you the power!

Ok, now I have to go get The GirlFriend™ some coffee. You know how important coffee is.

I was suspicious that this was happening since the blog of Nolan hugging your leg. He still loves you but may not want the appearance of such attachments around his peers. It's time to make a network of their friend's parents count. Your teens will want more and more independance and you should help provide the safe havens while they are gaining their balance. It's the "Learning To Ride A Bike" scenerio all over again. They want to "Pedal On Their Own" without you holding the bicycle. This doesn't mean that you are out of the picture. You will just be running beside them making sure they don't lose control.The FUN part is that you get to do this YET AGAIN when they want to drive the car! Let them FLEX, but don't allow them to BREAK. It's time to set new boundries for their growth. Happy Fatherhood!

My mother sympathizes completely. She swears that the person who does the comic strip Zits was spying on our house during my teenage years. May your stepkids be easier on you than I was on my folks! :-)

The aliens will return your children at some point between ages 19-21. For about 6 months to a year you'll wish the mother ship would come back and reclaim them, but after that...well, you won't understand them completely, but at least they're more human then.

If you're lucky one day you'll be driving somewhere with a former alien spawn and he'll turn to you and offer his most sincere apologies for spending a good five years with his head wedged into a bodily orifice it was never intended to be, and he'll wonder aloud how he was permitted to live.

You'll be able to honestly tell him you knew it was his pod clone all along, so all is forgiven.

Then he'll hit you up for beer & pizza money... ;)

Maybe this is a bit off topic, but I listened to "Asylum Street Spankers" and I don't know what to think. I one way, I think they're brilliant. In another, I think they're just bawdy hacks wanting to play music. I hate that when I'm not sure.

The only suggestion I have as a stepdad of 16 and 17 years old(never mind the driving part) is that you don't post much about how weird they are acting. You have a real possibility of embarassing them or pissing them off and getting crap at school. Just my $.02

The Asylum Street Spankers are fabulous. I'm constantly impressed by your taste in music.

My nephews are hitting thirteen this year. I think I'm a little afraid.

A shameless shill for the artist:
http://www.toddlockwood.com/galleries/dnd/03/drizzt.shtml
enjoy!
d

Congratulations and my sympathies, Wil. I'm in the same boat you are - I've suddenly got an angsty, cranky 13 year-old who wants nothing to do with me unless 1)nobody else is looking or 2)the cute girl in orchestra he's chasing is around, because she really likes coming over to talk to me, and he's hoping she'll talk to him!

(She will. She kisses up to me because she's crushing big-time on him.)

It's not so bad, though. Just weird. It's hard to wrap my head around it some days, that he's changing and growing up. Buckle your seatbelt, it's gonna be a hell of a ride.

It's not even like switching from vi to emacs . . . it's more like switching vi to emacs and someone re-assigned your keyboard and changed the language and now the damn thing reboots randomly and though occasionally it makes sense, most of the time you're so goddamned confused you wonder why you bought a fucking computer in the first place.

You have an amazing talent to explain that so well to someone without kids. I loved that entry by the way. You are genius, and I really do hope the aliens return the sweet reasonable kids soon :)

Also, my mother just read that (It may be the only blog entry she has ever read) and she thinks you are wonderful/god/smart and witty. I bet I'll get Dancing Barefoot for Christmas now lol (I can only hope :P)

I've lurked here, but this is my first comment. I can feel how amused you are at reaching this stage of your kids' lives, no disclaimer necessary. :) Good luck and keep smiling.

The part about "It's just that their brains are all fucked up right now, and they need our help to figure out what the hell is going on (but won't admit it, and don't know how to ask for it)" was the only teenager-trait I remember applying to me -- manifesting as trying to be so academically and behaviorally nice'n'perfect that I was probably making myself depressed. So reading about "normal" teenagers makes me glad. :)

It sounds like everyone involved is rampantly healthy. Don't let that get out.

I'm recently married and have always worried about the relationship that would develop between my new husband and my teenage son. I knew we would all be okay when I came home one day to find them yelling at each other over a game of Grand Theft Auto. It was perversely reassuring -- and also great blog material: http://falafelsex.blogspot.com/2005/06/adventures-in-summer-visitation.html.)

Wil, i remember from your books you felt you were a slightly difficult teen...at least during your Next Gen days. (Hell, you were an angel compared to me...i was positive I knew everything). But anyway, Robin Williams in his "Live on Broadway" routine does a great bit on Karma and teenagers...not the most reassuring thing to hear, really, but it's good to be reminded that pretty much every parent can tell you what it was like going down that road, or will remember what you've experienced when they get there themselves.

As a former teenager(not too far removed, really. Well, okay, 6 years removed, but still...), I must say your rules are exactly what the doctor ordered. You're giving them distance, but not shutting them out...time and again it strikes me what a great dad you are. Of course, from the sound of it, you've had some great parents to draw experience from, and a great gal to be a parent with.

Your boys will tend toward the beastly,for a while, but yes, you're absolutely right, they'll eventually outgrow it, and along the way, they'll still know you're there for them.

Good on ya, Wil!

Wil,
I am not a parent but you seem to be doing a great job. From the parents that I know, teens have a language of their own. Hang in there and you may understand them by the time you are 60. Remember, teach your children well. Make sure they know that you love them. Never forget what it was like to be a teen. Good luck on the a very hard job.

Hey Wil, I'm a teen myself at age 16. Although I'm a strange teen... I don't really get into fights with my parents too much. My mom actually said the other day, "Aren't we supposed to hate each other at this point in life?"

Funny, really.

Anyways, I guess the best thing to say is good luck, though I bet you won't need it. I think you'll do a great job with Ryan and Nolan.

- Sam

I became the stepmother of a young man who had just been visited by the hormone fairy, which is the first step to being a teenager.

My own personal theory is that the aliens first hit your sweet reasonable child with hormones as the first step to replacing the sweet reasonable child with their own offspring. They do this because they can't cope with the angst and drama, and so replace our children with theirs until they reach a point of development that they can handle again, and then return our sweet reasonable children.

This happens when the body is about 21.Amazingly, we become intelligent again once this epiphany occurs.

This is, however, just my own theory.

Hey there, Wil. Im Todd Lockwood - I paint the covers for Drizzt Do'Urden's books. I'm a fan of the old Star Trek and TnG, and a fan of your website. Tell your kids HI for me. As to teenagers - I've had three, one of whom is now grown and nearly gone. They get better. You hang in there, you treat them with respect and authority, and they turn out well. I suspect you are doing and will continue to do just fine. :o)

i am sorry
it all came so fast
for u
but i am sure u will get used to it
lol

I wish I had someone to teach me how to play D&D and then play with me. I'm just not nerdy enough for my own standards until I play D&D. A friend of mine from school (yes, I am one of those horrible Teenagers) says I would be a really good drow. I don't think he means playing as one though... (insert Evil Grin here)

It's funny, Wil. Many of us are in the same boat. I don't feel like I'm my parents age when I was going through my teens, but I am. One of the few things that make me feel better is remembering how my parents drove me crazy when I was a teen. They just didn't understand! I was the last of seven, at that point they had stopped trying to cross the void of teen craziness. They just tried to lay back and maintain patience. It worked eventually, though I made plenty of mistakes along the way.

I was reading an article earlier today in the August InStyle about Denis Leary and his wife, with a profile of their lives with two teens. His wife said something I found so familiar. To paraphrase it she said 'We always thought we'd be considered the cool parents, but now they seem to unimpressed by us.'

Been there done that.

Anniehay

Isn't parenting lovely? Tonight my eight year old told me something about when he was a "kid"? Isn't an 8 year old still a kid?

sounds par for the course, in the teenage dept. Once it starts happening, something else happens when the awareness kicks in. It really only gets better in my opinion. you're in for kicks and giggles... with healthy helpings of moans and groans.

Wil, glad to hear you discovered the Asylum Street Spankers. I have extremely fond memories of the cramped "Outhouse" in Austin, mid 1990s, no ac, hugging a bucket of iced down beer, and listening to the then-all-acoustic spankers perform an intimate set. Back then, Guy Forsysth was the front man and they were an undiscovered talent. Glad to hear that Whammo, Christina, and the gang are making a splash out in California.

This post gave me a good laugh. I am turning twenty in two weeks, and as a result I have been reflecting on what it meant to be a "teenager." It seems wierd that this time is over, but I am excited to see what the next decade is all about. So far it looks like more confidence in who I am, mood swings come slightly less often, and freedom. Also, my dad and I would be a lot closer if we could have played DnD together.

I love the shift between 3. & 4.

VI, emacs, xemacs, simple text, text edit, notepad. Whatever editor you use, in the end it's all still text. How you get the words out changes, but the core programming you're doing is still the same (and you've been a kickass hacker on this score so far). Enjoy the challenge of picking out those new keystrokes.

:)

Hey Wil, sorry about my earlier insane post - I get a little crazy like that sometimes, so I actually was a little relieved that you deleted it. I can understand how you don't want that craziness in your life, and again I apologize for going cuckoo.

Donīt worry, are ordinary things. See you.

Donīt worry, are ordinary things. See you.

Wil,

I feel for you. I'm just biding my time until this happens to my 10 year old. I'm hoping for at least 5 more years, but I know I'll be lucky if it goes 3.

I just caught your appearance on the Today show this morning about how geeks are chic. Enjoyed it a lot. Nice job!

Teens are interesting creatures. I don't have one of my own yet...my kiddo is only 3, which presents its own set of challenges. But, I work with alot of teens. The thing I find the most interesting is that they come into my house for their voice lesson or scene study class, and bitch about how it drives them NUTS that their parents actually want to talk to them...find out what's going on etc., then proceed to tell me all the stuff their parents want to know! I remind them that I am, in fact, old enough to BE their parent (39) and they just laugh and tell me it's different. So, they really do want and need the connection with an adult, just one who's not related, apparently. Strange.

And I can't imagine anyone with kids would have ever mistaken your post as anything other than humor. At least, I hope not.

Good luck getting to know these new creatures who live in your house!

Oh, I definitely saw the humor in this entry. Thanks for making me snort tea first thing in the a.m.! Good luck with this next phase in parenting.

Y'know, just last night, as we were out for my husband's birthday party, dancing the night away, I complained to a friend of mine that the music was so loud it was hurting my ears. We both reminisced on our long-gone "If it's too loud you're too old" t-shirts, then decided we have to get new ones made up: "It *is* too loud, and yes, I *am* too old. Deal with it." Or something. :)

Yeah, my little sister is a teenager and staying with me for a week ... and I have never been "so lame" in my life. She was told that she sounds like Cartman (South Park, yay!). She told me that was lame too. Oh well. I get to send her home to my lame mother.

I know what you're going through, because I'm living with a teenage drama queen =teenage girl.
I remember when she was this sweet little girl I got to know. Now she's a full pledge drama queen. she will be 17 on Sept 12. Oh the drama.Where did the sweet girl go? I know what you mean about the whole MIB and etc.....Thank heavens I can retreat to a locked door and computer. LOL

Thanks Wil,

I enjoyed this essay on teens and your ephiphany on that Hooters waitress. Since I've found only that one misspelling (teh) I'm starting to believe you that you did it on porpoise! Hehe. Looking forward to seeing you on Surreal Reality or something....

Yeah, teens are tough, but it does get better. Hanging in there with them and keeping some limits to their behavior, with consequences when the exceed those limits, is so critically important right now. Staying in the parenting job helps immensely. This is the time that lots of parents bail out of the job and let the kids run free to their own detriment.


You and Anne really are the grown-ups, and you really do know valuable things they don't know (and don't even know that they don't know -- they think they know it all, just like we all used to before we knew anything much). It is highly unlikely that they will actually hate you for more than a few seconds.


Just go watch Parenthood again and see the part about the roller-coaster, because you've been doing the kiddie version of that up till now, and now you get to ride the grown-up version. Every so often, wave your hands in the air and scream. But smile. The ride really won't last forever.

Welcome to the next fun phase of life! My boy is now 20, and beginning to get over that part of life (he is once again more often willing to be seen with us relics, and doesn't consider everything we say to be an insult), but the last few years have been ... interesting.

If I may - treat them with respect, but require the same in return, and keep the boundaries and rules firm, without being arbitrary, and they'll be cool, or as much so as their hormones will allow.

I have a feeling the gaming will be a real plus, as it's a clearly delineated environment where you can be as dramatic as you want withouth being gigged for it. Maybe that's why psychologists use role-playing so much. :)

But, knowing you and Anne (though not as well as I might like), I'm sure it will all come out for the best, given time.

Just hang in there! (You know, my boy is much more interesting now that he's working and has responsibilities and experiences of his own that allow a deeper level of communication. I'm sure you have a lot to look forward to!)

Carlos

I can't wait for my teenager to outgrow his hormones! Even for all the challenges though, I feel pretty lucky that he's such a great and interesting person. And let's face it, if he didn't find me lame, how would I know that he's also very, very cool!

Wil, seriously, try eMusic.com and your $50 will go a LOT further for you, I promise. No, you can't find EVERY song you ever wanted there, but you'll find enough that you'll still be able to afford iTunes for the things you can't get at eMusic and you'll have one hell of a music collection at the end of the day. Check your e-mail for a referral that I just sent you. Start sending referrals to all your friends and you'll be swimming in music in no time. My friends are afraid of ecommerce, so I pay the $15 a month for 40 songs and I LOVE it!

Enjoy!

No sweat, Wil. They opened the door, so stop treating them like pre-teens or kids. Treat them like adults, especially when you expect them to uphold adult responsibilities. Just don't expect anything they do to make any sense, and don't bother trying to hide your bewilderment - in fact, make a show of it. Give them adult priviledges as soon as they earn them, take them away when they mess it up, and give them back with they deserve them again. Make the rules simple and clear, and cover all the allowable exceptions right from the start (gotta put some real thought into those!) In short, treat them the way you would expect yourself to be treated.

Oh, by the way - make sure you never miss an insurance payment, and keep a big bowl of condoms filled by the front door, and make sure it stays full. Don't sweat it if it takes a lot of refilling - odds are they're going someplace else other than their intended purpose.

You said you liked to hear how your writing effected people so here you go:

My son has also been replaced by the pod people aka teenagers even though he's only twelve. He's always been mature for his years which has definitely become a double edged sword.

Somewhere I remember reading you say that as bad as things got, you comforted yourself with the words "at least I'm not one of the Corys".

When my pod person rears his rolling eyes, I remind myself of that Wil-ism that at least he's not a Cory and to count my blessings. The reminder gives me the time I need to collect my thoughts and not become my mother.

And since another Wil-ism is that all things are balanced, I thought you'd find it interesting to know that the good does equal the bad.

I was listening to "Teh Audio Book" while waiting in the car for my kids to come outside from visiting their dad. The windows of the car were down while I waited and you were reading about the hot chick at the convention complete with your "porno music" imitation.

I didn't hit stop in time. Now, even though the kids don't know what the music means, they like to imitate it. Frequently.

Thanks Uncle Willie. ;-)

Hang in there, they'll be in college before you know it and you'll be smart again.

Ahhhh, what a great entry. :) I look forward to that day myself.

What fun, to have your kids discover your D&D stuff. In our guild, when somebody has a baby, we refer to them as "future gamers." And yeah... some folks play card/MMORPG games with their kids. We are teh geek generation!

And yay, another fan of the Squirrel Nut Zippers! I used to love going to their live shows when I lived in Raleigh back in the early '90s. :) You said you like alt.country - are you familiar with Todd Snider?

oh man, I laughed so hard I cried a little.
I am bracing for this transition myself.. and I am not looking forward to the invasion of the body snatchers.. but it is rapidly approaching whether I like it or not.. Can't believe your going through it first though... now I can get some idea of what to expect from what you are going through.

ah.. hope my wait is longer than expected.

A couple of other aspects of teenagerdom that you missed:

A) Whatever you, as a parent, say is completely wrong, and you're missing the point, and they don't even know why they bother talking to you.
B) Nobody else has EVER been through ANYTHING like what they go through, and nobody understands them but their friends.

Thanks for telling me what I need to know in 13 years time when my little girl becomes a teenager.

Unfortunately by then I'll be too senile to remember anything you said!

Wil,

I feel for you. I'm just biding my time until this happens to my 10 year old. I'm hoping for at least 5 more years, but I know I'll be lucky if it goes 3.

I just caught your appearance on the Today show this morning about how geeks are chic. Enjoyed it a lot. Nice job!

Drew

A little on the sine curve of your entry, I am preparing to enter the high school classroom for the first time, having been hired very late after the start of classes. I've been informed that my classes, after having been with a substitute without a lesson plan for two full weeks, have "descended into a state of nature" (verbatim from the principal of this school, student body population 3,000). I figure if there's no pig's head on a stick at the front of the classroom, I'm one step ahead.

Can I be so nerdy as to recommend a book? I've worked with younger students with behavioral disorders for so long, "regular" teenage angst led me towards the purchase of a phenomenal book, called "Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students" by Kathleen Cushman and the students of WHAT KIDS KNOW, INC. The reason I recommend it is its prolific student commentary. I think you would enjoy reading it, as well.

Body snatchers are tough, to be sure. I anticipate the Lord of the Flies. Best of luck to you.

I have 11yo and 13yo boys, and I feel like I've lost ANY control...
I look to you all for strength ;)

Hi Wil.

Love your pearls of wisdom for dealing with teens - I'll keep them in mind when my neice and nephews hit that stage. And you don't want to know how heart-warming it was to see that your kids have picked up the role-playing bug. Ah, it makes an old veteran's toes curl, it does.

Keep on truckin'

MJE

Speaking as a 23 year old with younger siblings who have been battling through the 'pod person' stage for a few years now, I can't say I know what you're going through as a parent, but I did just get told the other day that I have 'No concept of what high school is like now.' Because, 'Its not like it was when you were in school.' And when I reminded her that it's only been five years, I got the eyeroll. Now I have to go beg my mom's forgiveness for any time that I ever acted like that...

I myself do not have kids, but I have a similar problem. My beagle, Duke, keeps stealing my car keys, driving around til all hours of the night; I mean, he's probably doing Milk-Bone and I wouldn't even know it. That's it; he's grounded.

Seriously though, we're adopting a baby in the next year and I've already done research to see if it's possible to create a time-warp-vortex thing to skip the high school years completely. Results have not been fruitful. But I'll tell ya; the best punishment for unruly teenage behavior? Take their bedroom door off the hinges. Nothing will irk them more than their lack of privacy. I would know; I spent 2% of my teenage years without a bedroom door. But it worked every time.

You MUST if you haven't all ready check out The Jayhawks. They are without a doubt right up there with Uncle Tupelo as the GodFathers of Alt Country and as an aside... with your boys, this too shall pass.

Um, yeah. I want to hear about the GAUNTLET. What was it??

Come on, tell me! Valkyrie needs food badly! Valkyrie is about to die!

Aviatrixt: That was EXACTLY the situation I walked into my first year of teaching. I hope you have better luck than I did.

Wil,

That was a thoughtful post, though I'd have to agree with McCorey in saying that don't post too much about what they do. The worst thing would be for them to think that everything they do will be public knowledge and under scrutiny when they are trying to draw lines of personal space and privacy.

But that's not why I write. My dad (he's actually my stepfather, but I call him dad) was thrust into fatherhood with a 10 and 12 year old. He did horribly for a while and then he got awesome! He did age 10 years between the two years I was 15 - 17 though. But that had something to do with me and drugs and not coming home at night. I hope you never go there.

Good luck with the boys. If my perception is correct...with parents like you and Anne, they can't go wrong. :) I'm a living testiment of what wonderful parents can do to a child. BTW, I'm getting my PhD! (as a note of encouragement)

2/3 of my kids are now teens. and some days they are the wonderful kids that i alway knew, and then there are days...

Wil;

If I recall from my own years as a teen... what happened was this wierd 2nd demension opened as sucked 1/2 my personality into it and replaced it with my alternate psyco personality in that demension... I was trapped until I hit about 19, when I conqured the evil portal operators.


*I AM NOT A NERD*

ok,
maybe just a little bit...

I'd like to say I'm not like your newfound teenage kids, although I'm the first one to admit I really may be more so than I think...however, as I've become an older teen, I've really tried not to fall into the category of the typical sulky, moody, angry teenager. However, unlike you, my parents DO take every single thing I do personally. What everyone has to understand, parent and teen alike, and it looks like you thankfully grasp, Wil, is that everyone says things they don't mean, and does things they regret, sulky teenager or not. But sometimes, especially when parents are really angry every time they do, kids actually find it harder to apologize when they ARE sorry, especially when the parents are like my mom...she doesn't even believe me when I DO apologize. Anyway, as a teenager trying very hard to grow up, I hope your kids turn out to be the less moody variety, and I hope you can keep your patience and understanding, and I commend you for it.

oh god, i remember doing all of the above to my parents. i feel so bad for you... and now i realize, i'm totally going to get what's coming to me.

Gee Will, I coulda told you about the glories of the Spankers years ago. If I actually knew you to tell you, that is :) The first time I saw them about 8 years ago was one of the most phenomenal and riveting performances I've seen. And I'm putting them in a class with much bigger names, here (Peter Gabriel 1987, Tori Amos 1992). What made it phenomenal was the lack of electricity. No amps, no mics, not a single knob or wire anywhere. Not even a megaphone. They kept a crowd of 100 rowdy drinkers rapt with attention. The next time they come 'round, you must see them. You simply MUST. I think they've started toying with some sort of ambient micing system to help with larger rooms, but that doesn't change a thing. See them. They also like to ask their fans to put them up for the night (because they don't really make a lot on these tours). Imagine their amazement if Wil Fucking Wheaton were to offer his guest room.

Unfortunately they have lost some of my favorite members over the years (ASS are not a band so much as a loose collective), and I think their best studio work was "Hot Lunch". They also have a couple of "official botlegs" from older tours.

as a teenager myself, i can only hope that i handle my kids as well as you handle yours, Wil. i can't even watch my under-13 nephews without one of them dive-bombing into the Christmas Tree...never mind...

and i also hope that my kids aren't as bad as i was as a younger teenager...and now i just realized something...

when i have kids, i'm COMPLETELY screwed...

Oh, my gosh, Wil! I haven't been here in way too long and nearly fell over laughing when I read this. I know exactly where you're coming from. My oldest step-daughter is 13, and sometimes I really don't think I'm going to make it through the next few years. We had a huge blowout tonight, because I know nothing about how she feels and I was NEVER her age and I have so many rules that she can't possibly be expected to remember all of them and if I hadn't said something that upset her the other day she wouldn't have had to sneak in to my room and take things that didn't belong to her and lie about it. I was still angry and frustrated until I read your blog. Sometimes, it really helps to know that there are other people going through the same things.

You don't really know the joy of raising a teenager until your 16 year old son brings home his new girl friend, who happens to be very, very pregnant.

Allow me to offer some insight with a slight flavoring of developmental neuroscience (picked up from my father and an ex-girlfriend). As you're probably aware (and I think you alluded to), the rebellious stage of adolescence is one of several stages of growth where a child truly defines their personality. They define who they are by rebelling against everything else.

My advice to you is: Embrace this. (you seem well on your way already). I never rebelled as a teenager, and though I was probably a model child to my parents in this way, I am now 31, and I still have an incredibly difficult time understanding and defining who I am and what I want.

Oh yeah, and... NERDS RULE!!!! You are so lucky that your stepkids embrace this.

SVE

Ah I laughed my head off at this!

I know the feeling. I may only be 18 but I look after my teenage sisters, and its hard enough to even make them read a book! Banning TV and video games is sound advice, but the scowling and grunting continues. Here in England there used to be "The Harry Enfield Show" and there was this fantastic sketch about Kevin the teenager - its so acurate! He constantly grunts and shouts "I hate you" which about sums up my interaction with young teens.


I think the kids have fine taste - I love the forgotten realms books, I remember thinking when I was 11 that it was about time I read them. Its great fun!

Hope they don't tire you out too much, take care!

Robyn

In the UK it's when kids reach 11 that things start to go wrong. They move from primary school - where the relative innocence of 7 to 11 year olds keeps them sweet - to senior school where, suddenly, the role models are big, stupid, macho 16, 17 and 18 year olds.

The rest is, as they say, history.

GM

A few years ago, I received to semi-pleasant step-nephews. I was so excited! Kids to do things with! Fast forward to now, and we have two preteen/teenage terrors! I am forced to listen to that God-awful loud crappy music that I listened to at that age and I realize now how completely lacking it was! There's no substance, just noise!!! And the attitude! Oh my God!!! Its enough to make you want to rip your hair out! We love them, but boy do they test that daily! I feel your pain and appreciate ANY advice, my daughter is still young, but the time flies by and I want to be prepared!!!

Ahahahahahahahaha!

Love your parents responses. That's just what I'm expecting from mine when I have teenagers.

Oh and tell Nolan he has TASTE. Adore the FR and Drizzt is just so cool :)

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. I actually giggled at my desk at work. Luckily my boss isn't in yet or I'd have had to explain myself. :-) Good luck with the pod people!

I know nothing about being a Drizzt fanboi. :)

And my son is going to stay two forever. No way will he ever morph into a teenager.

Shoot, knowing how people tend to respond here, the editorial comment is the funniest part of the post.

OMG, I thought I was the only one who has been dealing with that.
Wil, I don't know if you read the comment, But as someone who has a 16 and a 13 year old, man I feel your pain. Just rest assured children grow up despite there parents. And the intertesting thing it is, it is so true. But continue doing what you have been doing. Be friends with your children, and that bond will only become stronger.

The 'Spankers are quite choice, and were included in the soundtrack of "A Dirty Shame."

Check out Da Vinci's Notebook for some very, very choice tracks. Granted, they've broken up now, but their CD's are still as fresh and relevant as they were 5 years ago.

Wil:

I want to continue on the "middle" of your thread (the teenager stuff is finally behind me, as my youngest daughter just went off to college last week) about MUSIC.

You (and probably most of the readers) seem to have a great knowledge of "modern" (i.e. younger) music and (hopefully) share your politics.

My wife and I were discussing (lamenting?) the lack of musical artists that are involved in the ever-growing anti-war/anti-lies protest movement ("It's not the war, per se, it's the LYING about it").

We were seeing the musicians of OUR generation getting involved, from the ROLLING STONES to JOAN BAEZ to SPRINGSTEEN, but didn't really see the newer, younger musicians taking up the cause.

I've heard about King Flip, Kayne West, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli, but wondered if there were others you would recommend who are SINGING out against the insanity, as well as speaking.

And, as for the teenagers...

This will pass. The "seemingly overnight" is undoubtedly related to their sudden discovery that "summer is almost over" and the realization that school and the peer pressures of THAT are soon upon them. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible (yes, "grunnnnt" IS a communication to a teenager, as is "argggggg" and "ohhhhh my gawwwwwwd" and hopefully, like deciphering the needs of a crying baby, you will determine what each means -- just in time for it to morph into a new meaning) and everything will work out (mostly) fine in about 7 years.

Charlie L
Portland, OR
[email protected]

Oh god.

My daughter is already pulling items #1-4.

She's 7.

Kill me now!

I'm a long-time lurker, love the site but never felt compelled to post until today. Liz's comments (scroll up a bit) impressed me so much I just want to say something to her, and I hope she sees it:

You appear to be a very bright and articulate young person. I can only hope that my child (and future children) will be as capable at expressing themselves. If I may, I would like to suggest to you that you share your comment here with your mother, and just maybe she will start to understand that you are fully able to be sincere. All the best to you!

Thanks Wil, great forum for all of us. :-)

I must say as a teenager I feel somewhat targeted. If you remember being a teenager, then you must remember that it completely sucks. Between the new boyfriends and or girlfriends that change every week and the...'physical'..uhh..changes,and the constant thing you parents like to call peer pressure, it gets a little stressful. And with your parents asking you all these really stupid questions (sorry) you get a tad bit irritated and have no choice but to get, as my mom says, a 'tone' and tell them to never talk to you again. So, since you made a list of what to do with teenagers i`m going to leave a list of what NOT to do.
1. Don't try to be cool/funny in front of their friends. They will either laugh their ass off and make fun of you or your son/daughter will hate you for a few hours untill you give them money.
2. If they come home late from any teenage social event don't pound them with questions at that exact moment. Unless the come home dunk and covered with blood, or they are naked or something like that. Then that would be ok for obvious reasons. No wait, forget the drunk one. They will too busy running from elves to answer.
3. Never buy clothes for them with out their approval. Chances are they will hate it more than words could ever express just because their parents bought it. That happens 9 out of 10 times. If they like when you buy them clothes then kindly ignore #3.
4. Don't get involved with anything personal. That includes the constant fighting between them and the people they call their friends and all the happy stuff.Oh, and the "Relationships". Don't you remember how awkward it is to talk about that stuff with them. When my mom asks me about that stuff I get embarrassed and turn all red and say something random and off subject like "Ha...uhh go make grilled cheese."
5. If you have a teenage girl (one who is extremely emotional. I mean the kind that if you tell her her shoe is untied she will yell out "WHAT?!?! I`M FAT!!!!!" and cry for days) then say as little as possible about her physical features. Even if it's a compliment it will get misconstrued some how into something negative...which will make her cry for hours or, if you have the extremely emotional (see above) then days.
And the last and most important....
6.Never. Ever. Ever. Sell your car to the oldest teenager leaving you with no car and then the middle kid, who only wants to go to the new hampshire park where NOTHING BAD HAPPENS cause it's new hampshire and the only thing bad that could happen would be being eaten by a bear..or getting attacked by a rabid bunny or something,never gets to go anywhere or do anything and sits on the computer writing a rather lengthy comment to wil wheaton for like an hour and then will have no social life EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

...uhhhh

sorry.

So. I hope that helps a little bit. It doesn't apply to all teens. I mean, some of them don't even apply to me. But, i know what i`m saying even though i live a sheltered life in the mountains of new hampshire. But don't worry about that, because some of the kids who live out in the woods decided to form a street gang. Shooting, pulling knifes out on people, crying, expressing their feelings to eachother at slumber parties, you know the whole gang deal. I don't think they realize they live in NH. Well, anyways... I have to stop writing now, my mom is complaining to me. Something about an airconditioner...i don't know. Just to let you know i`m sighing and rolling my eyes. Us teens will never learn.

--shauna. (not nikki. I don't know where she is...)

from someone that's JUST starting to move past the teenage years and into the crazy-college-kid life, I just want to apologize to all the parents for the grief us teens gave you.

oh, and you may want to tell your kids that you care about them (they obviously know this, though), and tell them that when you ask about them-- you just want to know what's up. and that if they don't want to talk about it, they can calmly tell you that and you'll leave them alone. My mom did that with me and it made my teenage years alot easier.

--Chrissy

I hear teenage children are mighty tasty if cooked properly over a grill....maybe with a little tenderizing beforehand. ;-)

You're still a cool dad. Enjoy life, even if they are crazy. Someday soon, they'll be out of the house and hopefully, you'll miss each other a lot when that happens. =)

Neenu neenu.

Wil, having raised three teenagers myself, I have to say I agree with everything you wrote *except* No. 3. I'd bet the farm you were. ;-)

As an 18 year old, enjoying the latter years of my teenagehood, I wish to clarify that although we can be incredibly trying at times, we do in fact mean well.

...but I'm afraid the grunting as a form of communication is only the beginning

You're in for an interesting few years. Take lots of deep breaths. :)

(And if it makes you feel better, you've been mentioned on the CSI forums as a character we'd like to see make a return visit! It was great seeing you on our favourite show!!)

~~ Leanne

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

yikes. Way to tap into my deepest parenting fears, and make me feel guilty about my own teenagerhood at the same time ;)

Based on what I have read here, I am royally screwed. I was an evil teenager. I put my Mother through hell. I now have three boys of my own. They just happen to be identical triplets. Only 15 months old. In my mind, I keep coming back to three 16 year olds learning to drive!

Yes Mom, I will have kids just like me... in triplicate.

Yes, I am screwed.

As a first-time expectant mom-to-be, this entry just scared the living bajeezus right out of me. Not that I didn't realize that my kid wouldn't eventually be a teenager. I just didn't realize that the moment can kinda sneak up on you and slap you in the face when you didn't expect it. Not to worry, Wil's brightly entertaining humor seems to have put my mind at rest that it's not as scary as it could be. I just need to remember that the pod-people are just going through the same hormonal self-discovery that we all went through at that clumsy age. ;-)

PS: Wil, though your current pod-people have been explained, I would suggest that if any OTHER mysterious creatures make an appearance, you may want to look into calling MIB or getting tighter security or something. hahaha (kidding)

The 33d degree nerd thing cracked me up, and reminded me of this t-shirt I saw recently.

Wow. This is totally what is happening with me and my family as well... Except we have but one boy, and he is ADD but still, all the exhasperated sighs you mention are there, and the incessent asking and whining... And total lack of reasoning skills...

Very good read! Thanks for writing this :)

Very nice to find you had a blogging site, very cool. Most celebrities try to hide from their fans. Way to be out there!

Oh, yes the teenager. Have three. Well one just turning 12 and she acts 18. I get all the same stuff you do. I just ignore her sometimes, or tell she is not allowed to talk that way. She listens for the most part. Enjoy your time at this age, we only get it once, these are the years the will create what they will be when they grow up.

Masonic degrees for nerds... that's awesome. And you, such a young man to be a 33rd degree. :)

Hola, WilWheaton. New reader, old fan, fellow July 29-er, avid poker player. Ironic that today of all days I mentioned R.P. in my blog... before I discovered you. Pass the coincidence, please -- I'll have two.

I don't know. I think teens would be easier to handle than my 15 month old that thinks he's two. Now I just know I'll regret saying that when he turns into a teen. sheesh. All the ways I jinx myself just blows my mind sometimes!

wil, this is hilarious... i remember how i was as a teenager and how all of my brothers and sisters were to my parents and i am waiting for good mother karma to come back at me ten-fold as well.

Well, this is a first post for me.

The Asylum Street Spankers are awesome. I have seen them play at least 50 times. It's a perk of living in Austin! The band's founder, Guy Forsyth (who is no longer in the Spankers), has his own band, The Guy Forsyth Band, which you should also check out. He has a world class voice.

Guy's a good friend of mine. We've had a lot of good times; he met me in Nepal and we hiked to Mt. Everest together. He brought his guitar, and played the blues for the sherpas all along the way. It was phenomenal.

Oh, and here's your geek connection. Guy is a huge comic book fan (he introduced me to Sin City way back in the day) and is a gamer, too. He played a badass Humakti warrior in a Runequest campaign I ran back in college.

for more info on him, go to http://www.guyforsyth.com

Ken McKinney
kenmtraveller at that yahoo place

Here's a couple of tips on teenagers for free:

Firstly, whatever choice they CAN make themselves, let them make it. Then when you really need to not allow them to choose (read: say no to something) they are more likely to realise that it must be an important issue, or you wouldn't have made the choice for them.

I've seen so many kids rebel in stupid and dangerous ways because their parents stressed over the meaningless stuff, like whether to get their ears pierced, or dye their hair blue, or some equally stupid thing that means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

The second tip is that the most important lesson a teenager can learn is that they don't have to choose the opposite of what their parents would choose in order to be making an independent decision. How to get that across is harder to explain and much too long for a comment, but if you can achieve this, then it will not be so important for them to think everything you and your wife do is lame, because their prime goal will stop being to be as different as possible in order to prove they are individuals. They are figuring out what they are and at first 'not my parents' is all they have to go on.

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