Being the dad of a young teenaged girl, can be a very confusing and complicated thing. Many mothers were argue that it is even more complicated and confusing for fathers then for mothers. They might be right.
I feel that just when I have her all figured out and I am connecting with her, something sets her off – maybe something I said or didn’t say and then she clams up, or lashes out at me, leaving me scratching my head wondering what I did wrong.
Recently, my daughter and I had a little tiff at at a dinner outing with extended family members.
We were sitting at the table, side by side. We were joking around and actually having a lovely conversation about all kinds of things.
She has a little habit of gently “flicking” her younger sister and I with her fingers. Its not meant as anything other than being extremely annoying. Sometimes, depending where she flicks us, it can actually hurt a little. She is not trying to illicit pain…she thinks she is just being funny.
Well, she started into it with me as her victim. As it progressed, she gently used her hand to slap my cheek. This, I did not like and I decided to return the gesture; I gently slapped her cheek.
This tiny act of self-defence set off a firestorm. She pushed back her chair, stood up from the table and made a dramatic mad-dash to the washroom nearby.
My wife gave me that glaring look that says, “you screwed up Stephen…go make it right” without saying it. All I could answer with was, “she started it”. My argument was, “it’s ok for her to flick me and slap me in the face, but its not alright for me to defend myself”. I know, not very mature and certainly not setting a good example. I admit it…I screwed up.
Of course I vehemently oppose laying any kind of a finger on a child to reprimand or punish them. As we always encourage our own kids, its much better to use words than hitting.
Clearly I was in the doghouse. Not only with my child but my wife as well. Fortunately, my younger daughter, who witnessed the whole thing and has also been victim to the flicking, looked at me with the only show of support that was available to me that night.
Like a dog with its tail between its legs, I got up from the table and waited for my daughter to come out of the bathroom.
I was lead to believe by my wife, that my daughter had fled to the washroom in tears. In actual fact, she fled to the washroom because she had to use it. When she came out, she hit the wall of daddy. She tried to get past me but to no avail. I am quite the formidable force. It sometimes helps to be a big fella.
I acknowledged to her that I was wrong for my actions and I apologized if I embarrassed her or hurt her in any way. However….I did say that her nasty little habit of flicking people, especially her younger sister and I, was uncalled for and that to avoid any further friction between the two of us that we should simply have a moratorium on flicking.
She wouldn’t look at me and when I asked if she would accept my apology, all she could respond with was a shrug and “I don’t know”. Damn, I hate those three words.
When I attempted to reach in to kiss her on the cheek, she withdrew. I have learned that as our children get older, the grudges seem to linger around longer.
We returned to the table and sat beside one another, not communicating or speaking. Other than passing ketchup back and forth, we had no real talking for about 20 minutes.
Once she got some food in her, her mood seemed to lighten and her hatred of me seemed to ease. She was just about back to her normal self and when I reached into whisper “I love you” in her ear and give her a kiss on the cheek this time, she kissed me back.
We are attempting to go forward living in a “flick-free” zone. No doubt, she will lapse back into her silly ways. This time, I will resist the temptation to defend myself and just simply say “stop”.