Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

I am still getting used to the fact that my two daughters are now full-fledged teenagers. It has been hard for me to accept that they are growing into young women, even though it apparently has been going on for quite some time now, right before my eyes. I suppose this is just another adjustment I need to make. Hopefully, one that I will make soon, before they are out of the house and living on their own in New York City, working for an ad agency and texting me to meet them at Union Square Café so they can introduce me to their latest investment banker boyfriends. Being a father was so much more, well...easier, I guess is the word, when they were little. I had a much greater confidence in my fathering abilities then. I knew I was a good dad, plain and simple. There is a certain rhythm to parenting little children, even though you are mostly sleep-deprived and the house is always a mess and you barely have a minute to remember you once had a vast expansive life all on your own. But I knew better what was expected of me then. They had basic routines of course: bedtime, meal time, bath time. The rest was filled with playing and adoration as we tossed them into the air, held their little hands, and carried them on our strong shoulders. And then there was the discipline – Oh, how easy the discipline was when they were little! I was so powerful, with a full deck of disciplinary cards to keep them on good behavior. There was the time-out, the stern voice, the ability to swoop them up and physically re-direct them. And sure, they could scream and tantrum and embarrass you in the supermarket, but the bottom line was that I was a lot bigger and hopefully had a much stronger command of the English vocabulary. Therefore I was pretty much in control of the situation. Plus, they needed me. I have so many fond memories from when my girls were smaller – before they had their periods – when they adored me and snuggled with me and laughed at all my stupid jokes. They obediently did almost everything I told them to do. There’s nothing like a precious, naughty little girly daughter for a dad to love. But, alas, soon enough they get older, opinionated, and quite adept at text-messaging at lighting speeds. The parent is no longer the center of the universe, as the orbiting child is now pulled away by the enormous gravitational forces from the massive cluster of peer friendships. In this new universe, the parent is no more significant than a passing meteor that circles every eighty years or so. A quaint point of interest, but not relevant. What I worry about most, now that they're teens, is that I am no longer sure if we have a relationship anymore. It has become so much more awkward to just simply talk with my girls. The other day I noticed that the bulk of our conversations are more like one-sided commands: “Clean your room.” “Get your homework done.” Or, when you are in a more patient frame of mind, they are posed as questions: “Did you feed the dog yet?” “Have you finished your homework?” “How many times have I told you no texting or computer until you’ve finished your homework!” “How in God’s name can you leave a wet towel on the floor every single morning no matter how many times I tell you to hang them up?!” Things can get out of hand quickly, because these commands must be repeated several times daily, or else the tiny shred of order and discipline will implode like a black hole. The sad truth is that our teenage children generally don’t want to talk to us anyway. We are no longer relevant to their lives. We are not cool. They don’t need us anymore. It hurts sometimes. Despite those dark moments when I question my fathering abilities, thank God, at least my wife is there to reassure me. I hope she’s right. And to my girls’ credit, they at least will write some very thoughtful notes in the cards they get me for birthdays and Fathers Day, telling me how much they love me, and how wonderful they think I am. Once they even bought me a t-shirt for Father’s Day that said, “DADTASTIC!” Well, I guess it is true that I do spend a fair amount of time carting them around, if that means anything. And Lilly will still let me scratch her head when she goes to bed sometimes. And we can still get laughing real hard from time to time when I do those stupid tricks with the dog. To further reassure myself, I started a new file in my brain called, “Why I am A Good Father.” I fill it up with memories, images, and conversations - evidence of my competent fatherhood skills, as if I am preparing for the day when the Dr. Dobson police will break into my house and interrogate me. I recalled one particular event that stood out above all the others as the pinnacle of sacrificial love of a father for his daughter. It is called the “Period Purchase” test. This is the one where the dad has to run out to the store upon emergency request and purchase the daughters’ maxi-pads, tampons and other feminine gadgetry without complaint. I know I’m a good Dad, because last year I took my twelve-year old daughter to the store to help her pick out the right pads. I don’t remember where my wife was at the time, but there we were at 7 pm in the grocery store staring at a huge wall of feminine hygiene products with a cheerful array of colorful selections. We slowly began to make sense of the vastness, narrowing down by category, attempting to decipher the correct choice. She reached for a box. “No honey, not those – they’re not the right colored box. Remember? It’s blue and green?” She puts the box back and reconsiders the wall. “These, dad?” I examine the packaging closely. “Oh—no, not those. Those are overnights. You don’t need all that padding. Hey – look at these. Here it is.” We hold up the package and study the color, the cartoon depiction of its contents and the secret-code product description. “All right, honey, I think we’ve got the right one here. Okay?” “Okay.” “Oh – and don’t forget to get the tampons, too. You need both.” “Okay.” I honestly don’t know why they need both, but for some reason they do. We picked up a couple other items before making our way to the register. I got in line and glared at the shoppers around me. “What are you looking at?” I was focused, determined. I am the proud father of a beautiful young teenaged girl! I imagined the women in the lines nearby watching as I confidently pulled out the Always package from my shopping basket and casually tossed it on to the moving belt. “Awww, look at this Sheila!” one would whisper to the other. “He’s buying pads together with his daughter!” “What a fantastic father!” the friend replies in a whisper, as the virility of her own husband diminishes. “Not just fantastic,” I reply to my imaginary admirers. “I am Dadtastic!” The cashier rings us up. Batteries (bleep!). Light bulbs (bleep!). Snickers (bleep!). Maxipads (bleep!). Tampons (bleep!). Sixteen thirty two? Here ya go. It’s just another trip to the grocery store for me, ladies. I take my little girl’s hand in mine as we carry our bag of groceries back out to the car. She does not pull away.