The only constant in life is change, this I know; however, I find myself ignoring or neglecting to accept the fact that the most rapidly changing person in my life is my son. I have to sometimes catch myself and realize that he is physically expanding at a rate I will never know again. By default he is learning something new in school everyday, which is more than I can say about my daily routine and work experiences that require me to already have learned the information needed to perform. He is experiencing new emotions and feelings, some of which I no longer get excited over or have become detached from over time. In becoming a teenager not only did I realize that he has changed, but I noticed that my life was dictated by a balancing scale and there was no choice but for me to change as well. Therefore, each stage of his life is a change that requires a new beginning for me as a parent.

Last summer, on pretty much a standard dog day of summer in Brooklyn, my son and I went to shoot some hoops in a nearby park. When we arrived we ran our usual warm up drills and then began shooting the basketball around. Relaxed as ever, I took jump shot after jump shot, connecting with pretty fair regularity. Then, for some reason, my shots began to fall short and range wide left or wide right of the hoop. Usually I try to correct my son when he is losing his form and his jump shot becomes less accurate because of this, but on this day he looked at me and said “dad, you have no follow through on your shot, is your wrist hurting? You gotta stay focused on the rim.” It was very easy for me to sarcastically tell him “thanks” before commencing to commend him and acknowledge that his observations were right on the mark. Though seemingly a simple moment, it would prove to be a defining one in regards to my way of thinking. For the first time he outwardly shared how he was feeling about what he was seeing me do. My actions were being questioned outwardly; my delivery of the same behaviors I taught him were being critiqued, and even though my days of being the teacher and him the student were not over, the roles were now open to being reversed.

Today my son and I enjoy a very positive relationship. Despite having him at a fairly young age, I have to concede that times have definitely changed at an unprecedented pace over the past ten to fifteen years. There are startling differences between when I was growing up at his age and what he has to deal with today. My challenge is not only changing with the times, in a sense redefining myself while keeping my core principles in tact, but doing so while being mindful of my son’s changes. Redefinition for me as a parent has proven to be an organic process and at times a hard pill to swallow; however, I have come to accept the reality that the path my son has traveled is much shorter than the path that lies ahead of him. My travels, which have been longer than his with less of a path in front of me, must have check points for new beginnings so that we can maximize the experience of each others journey.

Joel Telford

Joel is not only the proud father of his incredible teenage son, but also the Director of a large housing program that serves people with mental illness. This position is one of his many successful business endeavors. Mr. Telford is an entrepreneur with a desire to help people in need while also supporting others in reaching their business goals. He writes poetry and assists inner city youth that are interested in furthering their music careers. As the youngest of 12 children the uncle of 28 nieces and nephews, grand uncle to 4 great nieces and nephews and former ACS case manager for therapeutic based foster care children , he has shared himself with, and has been surrounded by, children his entire life.

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