Thursday, April 16, 2009


I've begun to identify a pattern with my 15-year-old step-son.  He's generally a good kid, and doesn't get into too much trouble or get terrible grades at school.  Thankfully, he's not defiant, and he's not on drugs or anything like that.

The thing is... the kid's just a bit too apathetic.  He doesn't have a strong personality, and as such, he doesn't have too many opinions or feelings to stand behind... or stand up for.  I've also noticed that he's painfully unaware of other people, and how his actions or words affects those around him.

It's incredibly frustrating to know that he isn't intentionally being insensitive or uncaring; it's that he simply has no idea about people.  Just this week, I took time off work to bring him to track practice at 3:30 pm.  During the car ride, I attempted to engage him in conversation, which resulted in me talking and him grunting the occasional "uh-huh" and "yeah".  When we got to school I handed him the "spare" cell phone, and reminded him to call his dad when he was finished with practice, as his dad would be picking him up.  He grunted his acknowledgement then left the car without thanking me for the ride.  He's such a pleasure to have around these days.

I made a brief stop at the grocery store, then returned home to finish working for the day.  No sooner had I resumed my project than the phone rang.  I was busy on a call, and couldn't answer my cell phone right away.  As soon as I finished with my work-related call, I listened to the voice mail and it was my step-son calling to say, "Yeah, so I'm done with practice... you can come and pick me up."

First off, I recall very vividly reminding him to call his dad after finishing practice, and I also remember him grunting his acknowledgement as he left my vehicle.  Second, I don't quite think he's aware of the distance between our home and his school (about 6 miles).  Third, I think he has this idea that we (his father and I) simply sit on the edge of our seats just waiting for him to require our services.

Immediately after I listened to my voice mail, I received another call from him.  I answered to his, "yeah, so are you on your way?"

"I thought you were going to call your dad when you were finished."

"Well... I just thought that... since you dropped me off..."

"Why don't you call your dad.  He's across the street from where you are, and he's waiting for you to call him so he can come pick you up."

"Well... ok... *click*"

Oh why doesn't he get it?!?!

I'm really hoping this is merely a phase, and he'll move past it.  When I first met him - about five years ago - he was such a pleasant, articulate, mature, engaging young man.  He's regressed to this caveman-esque grunting wonder, who walks around the house and attempts to avoid household chores and conversation with other human beings.

The kicker is that every once in a while, he decides to make his presence known by throwing a hormonal tantrum.  Frequently, he accuses us of ignoring him and favoring his siblings, and once he even screamed "YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!!!!"

I'm not quite sure what I should be listening to... is it the "uh-huh" or the "yeah"?

It should be said that although he lacks empathy and understanding, he does know how to take advantage of people and manipulate.  He'll be the first one to volunteer to divide up a can of soda between himself and his siblings... making sure to pour some extra in his glass (for the effort, I'm sure).  Or just this past weekend, he offered to divide up the candy the kids acquired during their Easter scavenger hunt.  Jesse and I went to great lengths to make sure there were equal amounts of everything - knowing this was the only way to avoid arguing between the children.  When it was all divvied-up, somehow my oldest step-son ended up with all the "good" candy and the other two got whatever it was that he didn't particularly want.  You'd think that it would be pretty easy to divide three bags of mini eggs among three children, but he failed to see the logic behind that.  I realize I'm griping about very minor things, but if we don't get a handle on this conniving nature of his, it might very well turn into a huge issue for him in adulthood.

I know all teenagers present problems for their parents (and step-parents).  I realize that I need to find things to praise him for, and build our relationship that way.  Lately, though, I struggle to find the good.

Exactly how do you teach perspective?  How do you convince someone to consider other people's feelings?

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