3+ME: Staying awake for the world of preteens

You can’t control a lot of things.

Like sleep. You can’t really control how fast or slow you fall asleep.

No matter how tired you are, sometimes you just can’t catch any shuteye.

And sometimes no matter how awake you are, you might pass out as soon as you sit down. Say, if you’re watching your stepson play video games. Your eyelids might involuntarily get heavy, and


the next thing you know, instead of staring at the TV, you’re staring at the back of said heavy eyelids.

You can’t really control that.

You know what else you can’t control?

Other people.

You can’t control certain things. Like the video games your preteen likes*. Or the fact that they make you fall asleep every time you try to watch him play. (*Yes, you are the adult and can set boundaries on what he can PLAY, but you can’t control what he LIKES. That’s entirely up to him.)

Try as you might, exert as much influence as you want, but — you cannot control what other people think or do.

If you’re an Adult With Children, sure, you can set boundaries and guide expectations. But even as a parent or stepparent, you can’t control what your small humans think, or want, or do.

This has become abundantly clear to me in the realm known The World Of Preteens.

My stepson is 12. And he’s a sweet, sweet kid.

Who’s turning into a sweet, sweet almost-teenager. (How?!)

Some of the things he expresses interest in, I completely understand. And some of the things, I … don’t relate to at all.

For example, he spends a lot more time just hanging out in his room than he used to. Instead of bounding down the stairs and looking for our attention every five seconds, he’s becoming more self-sufficient. (Disclaimer: No, we generally don’t let him bring any sort of screens up there — though to be honest, he hasn’t asked. He just entertains himself the old-fashioned way, which is awesome.)

That’s something I understand. When I was a kid, I spent lots of time by myself, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I still treasure my alone-time. That’s where I recharge. That’s where I create. That’s where I relax.

In that, he’s sorta the same.

That, I get.

But other things, I frankly don’t get. Certain anime he’s into. Video games he plays. Video games as a general concept (I just really, really don’t understand the appeal of making a character run around a screen, but that’s just me — maybe that’s why they lull me to sleep when I watch them…).

Sometimes I think it’d be easier if he was into something like a sport, or a club, or theater — something I understand more.

But he doesn’t really care for that stuff.

And I can’t control the things he does and doesn’t like. I wouldn’t wish for him to be somebody other than who he is. Because who he is, is pretty awesome.

It isn’t a lack of awesomeness on his part; it’s a lack of understanding on mine.

My husband and I can set boundaries and guide expectations, but we can’t control what our almost-teenager thinks, or wants, or does.

So I try the next best thing:

I try to fix my lack of understanding.

  • I ask questions.
  • Anytime he’s willing to talk about anything, I listen.
  • I prod for more details.
  • I try to remember things he’s told me.
  • I ask to watch when he plays video games to see what they’re about — even if I do end up falling asleep every. single. time. (Who knew an avatar flying through the air and lopping heads off giants is so peacefully nap-inducing?)

I don’t remember everything he explains to me, and I often have to ask for a refresher course. But I try to pay attention, even when (or maybe, especially when) it’s a topic I have no personal interest in.

He needs to know I care about what’s important to him. Even in (or maybe, especially in) these little pieces that make up his world.

That way maybe, as he gets older and those “little pieces” become bigger pieces, he’ll trust me with those, too.

Because he knows I care about what’s important to him.

I want to be awake for that.

Originally published in The Herald News on June 9, 2019.

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