Leave it to my teenage daughter to be straight and candid with me. Who doesn’t appreciate someone telling you that you have bad breath, or that your outfit really doesn’t match? But I quite haven’t come to terms with the times when she informs me, with authority, to stop using certain phrases or sayings because, as she puts it, “you’re too old to be saying that.” There really isn’t any negotiation possible; she’s persuasive enough to coax a turtle to give up its shell.
Cat’s in the Cradle
On top of that, my daughter is very intelligent and funny. And often she’s clever enough to put both to work in her favor. As in, if she needs something from me or wants me to do something with her, she’ll casually start playing Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle on iTunes just loud enough for me to hear it. Or she’ll use a phrase from her toolbox of parental guidance techniques, something along the line of “You can pay for this now, or you can pay for my counseling later.” She’s joking, of course. I hope.
So it usually comes as no surprise during our conversation when she highlights something I said as it is now off-limits for me to use that phrase. Phrases like “Throwing shade.” “Lit.” “Chill.” These are all things I now cannot and should not say anymore according to her. I tell her that I appreciate her keeping me real,
But then MSN piled, also telling me what not to say with their article “40 Things Men Over 40 Shouldn’t Say.” Now, most of the phrases on their list are NOT in my daily vocab. But there were a few I needed to address:
- “Does that make sense?” – Apparently, I am condescendingly asking if my conversation partner is smart enough to keep up with my super-intelligence.
- “You should smile more.” – this was my own addition (see below)*.
- ‘No offense.” – If this is what is about to come out of my mouth, then I probably should not say what is coming next.
- The wordless exploding fist bump. Fun in the youth group, but not age-appropriate for me anymore.
- “Sorry, but…” – Basically I’m saying: “Sorry, but I’m going to tell you that what you just said is wrong so just deal with it.”
- “To be honest…” – I would like to mean candid, not that I haven’t been honest with you up to this point. Or that I am giving it to you straight-up. Or being sincere. Or worst case, I’m going to be blunt with you.
*The “You should smile more” is one that I have rarely if ever said, but after I saw this article I swore I would never say it again.
Filling in the gaps
My daughter can also be a typical teen, with all the joys and pains that brings. As I was commiserating with a couple of other fellow dads about my teen, one dad recommended the book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meeker, M.D. After I read through it, I realized that I was more in danger of not saying enough than I was in saying the wrong thing. I was leaving gaps in my relationship with my daughter, gaps that she was filling in herself, gaps that I should be filling.
What are those gaps? My gaps are going to be different from other dads’ gaps, but they are also going to be the same. Gaps such as relating to her if she is anxious, or if she desires to stretch her independence, or her wanting to go out with someone I may not agree with. I should not wait for those situations to actually happen to then engage. Because she probably won’t engage as we haven’t built up that trust yet. I need to be talking about these topics beforehand, so it becomes a comfortable topic, not a new topic.
TMI? Not a word in my vocab anymore
I can see that comfortableness in several areas where she shares a whole lot of information with me that I probably do not really want to know (TMI). But the other day she was upset, not with me, but she didn’t want to share what was going on with me because she felt I wouldn’t understand. We finally did talk about it, and I realized that it was about a gap that we had never spoken about before.
So for my deliberate action, I’m going to initiate more, to find the gaps and have the conversations that I need to have with her. That means I need to find the time when she is talkative, even if it is late at night or when I want to be doing something else. I’m guessing I probably need to do this also with my bride, but I’ll start with the daughter. She needs me more than ever, even if she doesn’t think so. And that’s for shizzle.