I Wrote a Product Review of My 12-Year-Old Son

The pros and cons of raising a preteen

I was trolling TikTok for laughs one day when I stumbled upon a video of a guy doing a “review” of his newborn baby boy. This dude was visibly delighted with his two-month-old offspring — he said the boy only cost him a few “grown-up transactions” — and encouraged others to get one, too.

Now, I got a good chuckle from the breakdown, which played like an unboxing video. That’s a shiny new baby, fresh out of the box. What’s not to like?

Of course, he’s cute. A baby alligator is cute. And like a baby alligator, a baby human is cute when you first bring them home. But as they get older, they get ginormous and want to eat all of the food as quickly as you can procure it.

Your son getting bigger, stronger, and better than you is your destiny. That baby boy is a walking outsourcing department — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As the proud owner of an older model — my son is 12 years old — I understand this man’s enthusiasm. But I wish this new dad waited until he’d had the boy long enough to share a long-term perspective, one that takes into account how much time and money it costs to maintain a baby.

We’ve all seen those product reviews on online retailers like Amazon where the customer updates an initially glowing review with a more objective addendum once they’ve actually had some time to sit with the damn thing. And while I’ve don’t have any buyer’s remorse, I’ve certainly got some fresh views after a dozen years of raising mine.

Interested in getting a preteen of your own? Peep my list of positives and negatives, beginning with the latter.

Cons

The maintenance costs are exorbitant

When my son was born, he had those same chubby cheeks as the son of the gentleman from TikTok. But like a baby chick, the chubbiness goes away. At 12, those cheeks are just food storage tanks. They now hold up to one week’s worth of groceries at a time. And my model does best on high-octane fuel like salmon, blueberries, and oxtails. Did you know oxtails cost damn near the same per ounce as saffron? He eats chicken wings, too, but not very efficiently.

He’ll ask uncomfortable questions

As babies, boys are not very inquisitive. They don’t ask any questions at all — they prefer to cry for things at that point. Mostly they wail because they’re hungry, cold, wet, or want their mamas. They rarely want you.

As they get older, though, they start asking questions for which you don’t know the answer, like “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is the washing machine broken again?” And since neither you nor the Whirlpool repairman have any clue, you should stick with this time-tested answer: “Nobody knows.”

Eventually, though, your son, like mine, may skip right over the birds and the bees and ask, “Dad, what’s a furry?” I can assure you, you’ll wish he was back in his onesie, crying because he soaked another $2 diaper.

He pulls from your closet like it’s his own

Kids have to wear clothes; it’s the law. Fair enough. The bad news is that they outgrow clothes like you outgrow the honeymoon phase. Even worse, unless they’re trendy, kids will eventually take an interest in your clothes.

If you think your wife wearing your favorite sweatshirt is annoying, wait until your former football-sized bundle of joy is a 185-pound ball of hormones that starts walking around in your whole ’fit. The fact that he’s doing this so he doesn’t have to deal with a dumpster-load of his dirty clothes won’t be lost on you.

(This goes for footwear, too. The best thing about quarantine is that I don’t have to provide my boy with shoes — I just wrap his feet in some old burlap sacks and secure them with hemp rope.)

Your son will challenge your manhood — on a regular basis

Living with a growing boy can be like living with a bully.

My son thinks nothing of waking me from a sound sleep to demand a wrestling match. If I say maybe later — perhaps when I’m awake — he’ll reply with something along the lines of, “That’s okay. You’re old!”

When you’re an ex-nerd who got punked more than once as a kid, it can be triggering to have a 12-year-old following you around the house, challenging you to fight. One time, I just lost it and screamed, “Ain’t nobody scared of you, Andre! I am a grown-ass man! I will KICK! YOUR! ASS!”

It really concerned my wife since my son’s name isn’t Andre.

But your son getting bigger, stronger, and better than you is your destiny. That baby boy is going to replace you. He’s a walking outsourcing department — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

He’s got selective hearing

One of my favorite pictures is of me holding my little boy when he was only a few months old. He’s hanging on my every word. It’s almost like I’m the most important person in the world.

But preteens have selective hearing. My son can hear a dinner bell down the street but can’t hear an alarm clock next to his bed. Ditto for requests to do chores. Which brings me to the upsides.

Pros

He’ll shovel the shit out of some snow

I live in Chicago and, as you may know, it occasionally snows here. About a year ago, it occurred to me that maybe the boy could help me shovel. After all, he was the size of a full-grown man. It turned out that he could, and he didn’t even mind it that much. Now, the popping in my knees calls for him to take over the shoveling, so I don’t have to call for a snow removal service. (If you live in the lowlands of California, this one won’t do you much good. Sorry.)

He’ll dump the shit out of some trash

A few years ago, we lived in a building with a large courtyard. To get to the dumpsters, I had to go down three flights of stairs, walk through the courtyard, and around the corner to the alley to dump the trash.

Now we live on the first floor and only 50 feet from the alley. And I haven’t taken out the trash since. I just tell the boy to avoid any unmarked vans and tell my wife that we’ll hear his screams if there is trouble. And hell, at 185 pounds, he can defend himself as well as I could protect him.

He’ll carry the shit out of some groceries

Actually, most forms of manual labor apply. If he breaks a jar of Prego, know that is better than you having to lift a bag.

He’ll possess some of your features (physical or otherwise)

For better or for worse. Decide for yourself in which section this belongs.

It’s an old-age insurance policy

If things go well, your son will grow up perfectly capable of taking care of himself. If great, he might be able to take care of you, too. All of those broken jars of Prego are going to be worth it when he buys you and your wife a house, preferably in the Virgin Islands.

Someday, he might even change your diapers.

All in all, a boy is a great thing to have. Just be sure to keep the receipt.

I write about masculinity, fatherhood, family, and relationships.

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