Aiden is my middle child. He fits the stereotypical middle child role of flying under the radar. He doesn’t do too much to get himself in trouble, he is pretty independent, and he’s content to be on his own, not asking for much or demanding attention. This can be a slippery slope for parents because when life is so full and we have other children that require extra attention, it’s a relief to have one child that seems to be managing fine.

But lately Steve and I have caught ourselves. It’s too easy. We need to engage him to truly know how he is doing and to prevent him from slowly and silently withdrawing little by little. So, what’s the solution in our busy world of kids, activities, day jobs, and more?

A game of scrabble.

Art Not Science

Steve and I are midway through raising our third teenager. We’ve managed to get one child through to adulthood (which is a whole other blog) and are neck deep in the murky waters of raising two teenage boys. I say murky, because there doesn’t seem to be a lot that’s clear to us these days. What works for one is a complete fail for the next and so we are muddling our way through. We’ve got two more boys to go, but for now, they are content to watch hockey with Daddy, listen to Mom’s bedtime stories and get tucked in at 8:00 pm with prayers, a song, and a big kiss. And so, after 8:00 pm, we roll up our sleeves and begin our newest project of consciously looking for ways to connect and communicate with teenage sons.

Cue the eye roll from said sons here.

We’ve discovered that connecting and communicating with teenage boys is not a science. It’s more of an art that takes a whole lot of practice. We walk a tight rope between the little boy hidden inside who is fun loving, needs hugs, and wants to know how proud their parents are of them, and the sullen teen who thinks we are outdated, old-fashioned, not particularly funny, and just plain wrong. It is a lesson in patience and not getting your feelings hurt.

Our first hurdle is generally getting them to put down the device that connects them to the outside world where their friends are current, trendy, very funny, and never wrong. Once the device is put on the shelf for the night, the next hurdle is getting past the crossed arms, slouched body, and the “What are we going to do now? Talk?!!” look.

And that’s where the game of scrabble comes in.

The Abominable Game

One thing I should make clear—I HATE scrabble. I may have trained as a teacher, but my Achilles’ heel is spelling. If anything shows my love for my son and my determination to connect with him, it’s that last night I challenged him to play this abominable game. Since this game has never come out of the closet before, Aiden had no idea what he was in for. But he humoured me by agreeing and we had a very nice hour, learning the game together.

Aiden is a particularly good speller and I lost horribly, but despite my childhood traumas connected to scrabble, I really enjoyed it. The best word I managed to spell was four letters long but spending time with my son was nice. I didn’t learn anything new or hear all the details of his day, but a heart to heart conversation wasn’t my goal. My goal was for him to know that I like spending time with him, like being around him, like chatting about nothing with him, that I like him.

The more time I spend with him that doesn’t involve me nagging him to clean his room, finish his homework, put away his dishes, leave his device on the shelf after 9:00 pm, the more he will realize how cool his parents really are.

Cue the eye roll from said parents here. As well as shrieks of laughter. It’s going to take a lot more than a scrabble game to convince him of that!!

Love in the Murky Stuff

As murky as the waters are that we’re treading in while raising teenagers, I really love my teens. They are becoming independent and deeper thinkers. They ask hard questions and are wrestling with complicated issues. And though they can find me outdated, old-fashioned, not particularly funny, and mostly wrong, they still value my advice when they are in the mood to ask for it.

Just the other day, Aiden and I had an interesting conversation on whether God is real and if so, why he had never heard God speaking to him in a “real”voice. I didn’t need to convince him or stress over his seeming lack of faith, but it opened the door to remember and reminisce of all the times God has worked miracles in our lives. And the fact that my opinion matters, speaks to the love and trust he has in our relationship.

The teen years go by in a blur. They are challenging, entertaining, exhausting, intriguing, and require a soft heart and a thick skin. And if I’m not careful, my 15-year-old will be 18 before I know it and I’ll be left with too many regrets. My middle child is not forgotten and if it requires a regular game of scrabble to prove it, so be it. Regardless of whether his Mom loves the game or not. She loves her son, and that’s all that matters.