There are days when I don’t feel like I am a very good dad. Days where my kids would rather pay attention to their iPods than listen to me. My jokes are not funny anymore. I’m crabby, and come to think of it, I’m flabby. I’ve become the taxi driver, bank account and dispenser of advice only when it is needed.
Have I become “that parent“? You know, the parent who is tuned out and irrelevant to his kid’s lives?
On my better days, I realize that we’ve both changed. Their taste in clothes has changed, they spend more time in the bathroom than I can keep track of and they are preoccupied with what they describe as the “giant mountainous zits” on their faces. One of my kids likes to skateboard and the other one plays the Ukelele. I can’t even spell Ukelele, and I know if I skateboard I will fall and crack my head open like Humpty.
Fatherhood has a shadow side. When your kids are young, you feel that you’ve got this. You know your kids and their interests. You know their friends and they come to you with the important things.
But success in the early years may not lead to the same experience in the teenage years.
When your kids go to Junior High school, it’s as if the sun shifts and the parenting shadows lengthen. The more information they pack into their little school-kid heads, the more they think they know what is best for their lives. And you seem to become a little less important.
Or do we?
Dad’s, you may go out of style, put on weight, lose hair, become gray, gain wrinkles and listen to old-fart music. Don’t worry. Your shadows are what makes you who you are. Your kids still need you.
Even when they push back, remember that they are just scared. You were scared too when you were their age. Teenagers think they know so much, but they are learning that the world is a big place. And they have more confidence than they can handle… just like the guy with the new Mustang convertible. But confidence can be over-rated.
Your teenagers still need you. They get that you have your shadows, your own issues. They no longer idolize you. That’s part of what makes being a teenager so hard, but also so magical. It’s hard to admit that your parents are not perfect, they blow it just like you. There’s no perfection in the world. But then the world opens up and you realize you can be whatever you want. And it scares the hell out of you.
Here is where your kids need you, for those “scared-crazy moments.” What you and I need to do is “stay tuned.” Live your life, but be aware of your kids: what they listen to, what they wear, who their friends are and their interests. You don’t have to nag, but you can be curious. Ask questions. And listen.
You’ll get funny looks and rolled eyes when you ask the stupid questions. I know, it happens to me almost daily. Don’t take these the wrong way. You are on the right track because your kids understand that you are are listening. That’s where you know you’ve got them.
Remember that perfectionism is a refusal to accept anything less than perfection. And trying to be the perfect parent will crash and burn against the highway-to-hell that we call teenagehood. No, these years are not terrible. They can be fantastic. But they humble you. Some days as a parent of a teenager, you will feel like you are in recovery: you will admit you are powerless, call out to a power greater than yourself, name your mistakes, ask for help, and need your support group.
Don’t give up. You are in parenting-perfectionism-recovery. Just take it One Day.
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.
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Keep it Real
A version of this piece first appeared at smswaby.com
Photo by smswaby