1. SCARY HUNKS. Who knew pictures on a bedroom wall could be so intimidating? But I sure started to worry (okay, panic) when the posters in my daughters’ bedroom of fresh-faced prepubescent boy singers were taken down and replaced with square-jawed, manly actors with five o’clock shadows and scarily suggestive twinkles in their eyes. For my own peace of mind, I probably should have recognized that teasing sign on the door – “No parents allowed” – as wise advice.
2. SLEEPOVER CHARADE. Whenever my youngest asks for a sleepover, she and I play the same charade. I insist that she and her friends will have to go to bed at a reasonable hour and clean up the basement where they camp out before anyone leaves. (I’ve spent too many Sundays having to deal with a zonked-out kid and a basement floor covered in potato chip crumbs, candy wrappers and dried-up soda spills.) So I promise her if she doesn’t abide by my rules, she’ll never be allowed to have another sleepover again. She crosses her heart and swears they’ll be asleep by midnight and the basement will be spotless the following morning. Of course, neither one of us ever lives up to our mutual promises, but we keep playing the charade anyway. And I guess that works out perfectly for one of us.
3. UPGRADED REP. I discovered I have an ounce of “street cred” with my teen girls and their friends because I started listening to an indie band they now like — the Arctic Monkeys — before any of them knew who they were. I know it’s pathetic that I take so much pride in that.
4. SEALED LIPS. Teenaged girls would rather eat a cold entrée than have you ask the wait person why it took so long for your food to arrive. If you ask anyway, and the waiter is a handsome young lad, they’ll swear they will never speak to you again. And they may even hold true to their word, at least until the next time they need to ask for money or a ride somewhere.
5. SHALLOW INSIGHT. Since I’m utterly incapable of helping my eleventh-grader with her math or science homework, I was thrilled when she asked me to read a short story she was struggling to figure out. As a former English major, I felt confident that this assignment was right up my alley. I dedicated a full forty-five minutes to reading the piece, then gave her my interpretation of what the older man attempting to seduce the teenaged girl might be up to in Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” When I finished giving her my carefully considered analysis, she offered three different possible interpretations she’d arrived at, based on her clearly far more nuanced reading of the text. At the conclusion of our discussion, she smiled and said, “Thanks so much for helping me, Dad.” So did I take that gratitude as undeserved and wallow in the sad reality that my daughter is smarter than I am? No, of course not, because despite all evidence to the contrary, she apparently still views me as a reliable source of wisdom and insight. Aaaah. It was a perfect dad moment.