My wife said in a loud voice, “Someone’s got to take Melodie to school, she’s missed the bus”. I immediately volunteered for a number of reasons. Firstly, to help my wife who was working to a tight deadline in the office. Secondly, because I needed to do something en-route to the school anyway. Thirdly, I figured that it would be a good way to encourage my father/daughter relationship. Imagine my surprise when moments later this turning 13, going on 18 year old, almost burst into tears and said, “I want Mum to take me!”
My response? “Don’t you understand Mum is busy so Dad will take you to school?”
“No, I want Mummy to take me!” grabbing hold of Alison with both hands as if Mummy belonged to her and no-one else. Is it because she is the youngest that she is convinced the whole world revolves around her? So glad the others didn’t behave that way.
With a raised voice, “No Honey, I am taking you to school.”
“No, you’re not,” came the equally firm and assertive reply.
I looked to my wife for support and she said, “Maybe I should take her to school.”
Completely annoyed by now I replied, “How can you say that? I am her father and I want to take her to school.” And then I foolishly asked the question, “Why doesn’t she want me to take her to school?”
“Don’t you understand,” my wife answered. “She is embarrassed by you!”
My mind reeled back to the day when she was born. The first cry in the hospital’s birthing centre when I held my newborn daughter in my arms. I wasn’t embarrassed, in fact I was quite proud. The time I helped her ride her bike without training wheels when she was 5 years old. I wasn’t embarrassed then. What about the time I took her on a date to Sydney to see one of those ‘chick flicks’? I wasn’t embarrassed then. How is it that she is embarrassed by me, but I’m not embarrassed by her? All these thoughts raced through my mind in milliseconds as this conversation got more and more heated.
“Okay then,” I said. “I will drop you one block from the school and you can walk from there and no-one will ever know that I took you to school, or that I am your father.” Much to my dismay her eyes lit up as she said, “Okay,” but with a wearied sound for good measure.
My ego was definitely damaged and deflated. In fact, I was eating humble pie by the bucket load, but I was at least ‘taking my daughter to school’ even if I did have to play the role of an ‘unknown father’.
I think we can all remember a time when we found our parents to be embarrassing. Usually this only lasts for a few years in the early teens.
The first key for a father, is to swallow some ‘ego damage control’ pills. This could be achieved by remembering the times when your child was proud to have you around.
The second key is to remember not to be too hard on your children when they get to this stage of growing up. At times, we all need space. However – stay connected. Your children need your love and companionship, even when they tell you they don’t.
My advice to fathers this week who are going through this challenging period is, “Smile a while and give your face a rest,” and then overdose on some father-friendly ‘ego’ pills along with a good serving of Dad’s fresh baked humble pie and go hang out with your pre/teen by doing something they like to do.
Yours for more humble pie