I Don’t Understand One Of My Kids And I Feel So Guilty

Dear Sober Dad,

I have three children, 14 down to 7. I do fine with my 14-year-old and my 7-year-old, but my 12-year-old son gives me fits. I feel like I don’t understand him at all. It’s so frustrating. What do I do?

– Natalie T., Denver, Colorado


Dear Natalie,

Sober Dad feels your pain.

He went through the exact same thing.
With my four children, I always used to say that there was one I didn’t “get.” I didn’t understand why he thought the way he thought or acted the way he acted. We butted heads and it was not pretty.

Then one day, Sober Dad’s wife helpfully pointed out that this child and his father were practically identical in terms of behavior and outlook.

At first, I was outraged.

Don’t you get it, I thought furiously. We have nothing in common. That’s the problem.

No, the problem was that I didn’t recognize how much we had in common.

We both have explosive temperaments.

We are both deeply guarded individuals – we have lots of friends, but we let very, very few people into our inner worlds.

We both want to master anything that is of interest to us and have nothing to do with anything that is of no interest to us.

We are both extremely handsome and, dare I say, with all due modesty, quite brilliant.

These comparisons between the two of us left me dumbfounded. They completely revolutionized the way I parent the young man.

Instead of thinking of him as “the kid I don’t get,” I now treat him as if he were the exact image of me when I was his age and I am the father I wish I had at that age.

Instead of a sense of confusion and dismay, I now approach him with a sense of wonder.

In many critical ways, he is not just my son.

He and I are one.

Let’s not have the psychologists in our audience read too much into that statement.

Of course we are two different people.

This is just simply a metaphor for how I reimagined parenting him.
It works.

So if you feel the same way – that you do not understand your 12-year-old – consider the possibility that as recovering alcoholics, we do not really understand ourselves.

If you move from trying to understand him to simply accepting and loving him as he is, and that he is probably more like you want to admit, things may change for the better – and quickly, too.