I see her every day.
I feed her every day. I do her laundry (well, I help out with her laundry) almost every day.
I hear her taking super long showers every day. I make the bed she sleeps in every day (when she doesn’t do it herself…which seems to be all the time).
I remind her to clean up her plate, rinse it and put it in the dishwasher every day. I tell her to put her clean clothes away in their drawers (neatly) so they won’t get all creased. I remind her to charge up her phone every day. I drive her wherever she wants to go so she can be with her buddies. I remind her to take her bus tickets every day. I remind her to let her mom and I know where she is when out with friends on the weekend.
I do all of these things and more for her…yet for some reason, she is not here.
She is here in body…but seems to be elsewhere in mind.
This is the life of a teenager…or at least, the life of my 14 year old daughter.
She wakes up in the morning…usually in a bad mood because she either didn’t get enough sleep or because she is just in a pissy mood…like she needs an excuse.
I feed her breakfast which temporarily raises her from her moroseness switching to goofiness verging on the edge of annoying.
She gets her act together and buses it to school. Although I always say goodbye and tell her that I love her, she is half way out the door and on her way.
The day goes by and around four o’clock she returns home. Dumping her stuff everywhere, she mutters, “what’s for dinner” and “I’m hungry…what is there to eat”. While I ask questions about her day and what new things she learned, she offers up very few pieces of information. She gets her snack, eats it and then proceeds up to our bedroom where our computer is to do her “homework”…which often includes going on Facebook and texting with her friends.
Dinner time arrives. The four of us always sit together for dinner which gives us a chance to pause and catch up on the day. If what we are serving isn’t to her liking, she pushes her food around and picks out the stuff she likes leaving the majority of it behind. While we encourage her to eat, reminding her of the benefits of the nutritious and healthy dinner we always put before her, she turns grumpy and sometimes after a heated exchange she is either asked to leave the table for her rudeness or storms up to her bedroom.
Sometimes, if my wife is lucky, my daughter (around 11 o’clock at night when my wife simply wants to go to bed), decides to start sharing stuff about what is happening in her life.
But not with me!
My interaction with her seems to be reprimands for her neglect of chores and other family responsibilities or questioning her plans for hanging out with friends on the weekend (“Where are you going?” “Who are you hanging with?” “How are you getting there?” “When will you come home?” “Any boys?”)
If I have an altercation with her, for something she has done or hasn’t done, I am the one that usually feels guilty. I don’t understand why because she is the one disrupting the dynamic of our little family. It is she who has dis-engaged from our family. It is she who fights with her little sister and disagrees with her mother and I.
So why do I feel guilty?
Is it because I am over-reacting? Is it because I feel like I am pushing her away? Or, am I over-analyzing this and this is just part of a developmental process that will take a few years to go through?
Teenage years are hard on teenagers that’s for sure. But they are equally hard on the parents of the teenagers. I have said before that my role as her father is not to be her buddy or her friend but to be her parent. In that role, I fully expect resistance and some bumps along the way. Hopefully, when she is older and wiser she will look back on these days as beneficial and worthwhile to her and when she does reflect, she does so with a smile on her face.
I know I am a good parent. My wife is a good parent too. We are both fully engaged, aware and interactive. We enjoy our children and they are, at their core, decent, caring and compassionate.
I adore her and love her completely. She is my own flesh and blood and I would do anything for her. I know deep down beneath her teenage bravado, she is my little girl who loves me too. I know it!
I always tell her that I love her…in between telling her to clear the dishes and straightening her room!