Who said you can’t make a fool out of yourself when you’re a dad? Last weekend, I had some work in Denver so I decided to invite my oldest daughter to accompany me. Of course it’s weird to travel with your dad on business when your 13, so she negotiated inviting a friend. I was more than happy to be the chauffeur, program director, safety officer, and fun sponge on this journey. It was Halloween on Friday, so I knew there would be some incredible opportunities to meet other people, see some strange costumes on the street, and have a good time.
True to my expectations, Halloween is NUTS in Downtown Denver. The Wu Tang Clan stayed at our hotel, so we had Halloween and Hip Hop right under our nose. That’s the kind of adventure I expected. But nothing could have made me ready to experience two 13 year old women trying to orchestrate their own fun.
First, let me just be the one to drop the truth: Nobody knows how to figure out this dad thing. Most of us are just trying to best way we know how to give our kids a positive influence, guide and direct them to be well-healed adults, and hopefully pass down some memories they’ll look back on fondly so when life gets hard, they have a safe place to come for advice.
Believe me, I realized more than ever, I don’t know much about girls!! To all the Dad’s with girls out there, I’ve come into my own now, verbally admitting I’m no expert on things when it comes to teenage girls. I love my kids with my whole heart, but WOW!! This ain’t easy.
Boys are easy.
Ask, “What do you want to do?” And if they give you an answer, you can move. If they don’t give you an answer, then they really don’t care.
Girls are different
Ask, “What do you want to do?” And if they give you an answer, it MAY BE what they want, OR if they don’t give you an answer, then they have to conference about it and come up with the thing they want to do that might be the least offensive to all of the parties involved.
WHEW!!! I found this weekend and eye opener!!!
The girls and I dressed up early, after I finished some business for our company. We decided we wanted to go and observe. We just wanted to be a part of the festivities and have a good time. And BOY DID WE!! We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, walked the 16th Street Mall in Denver, and the girls were asked more than once to take pictures with random pedestrians on the street.
I, on the other hand, was walking closely behind them trying to discern when it was right for me to step in and direct, and when it was time to step back further and give more freedom. WHEW!! Again, this is a tough one.
As we drove the 6 hours back to Durango, I had a long time to think about this thing we call Parenting.
1. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy
Somewhere our culture adopted this idea that if you read the latest book written by the latest expert, it was all going to make sense. I can’t believe we continue to fall for that one. We are people individually created with our own desires for fun and adventure. Nobody can say, “If you just do this……it will all make sense.” Nope. The best we can do is pray for guidance, seek the counsel of others who have walked through this phase of life, and ultimately love our kids no matter what they do. I think Love makes up for a lot of failure.
2. Kids will be kids
I had to remind myself, more than once, I have a lot of years on my daughter. I’ve experienced things that she hasn’t yet, been able to make decisions she hasn’t had to make, and I know the difference between safe and fun. Ultimately kids will be kids, and we need to meet them where they are with a constant understanding of our own responsibility. Kids will be kids, but I’m still the Dad, and no matter what, it’s my job to provide the environment for them to be safe. Man, sometimes that’s a hard-line to walk.
3. Kids know when you care
I’ve found a lot of my mistakes can be made right when my kids know I care about them. I love my kids no matter what they do or who they become. To live in a world of where unconditional love is a choice contentious on our kid’s behavior is a clear sign that parenting will get harder. But if a student knows, deep in their soul that you care for them no matter what; the leash of mistake is long.
As I wrote before, this Dad thing is TOUGH. We need each other. We need to share tactics, learn from our successes and mistakes, and develop a community of men who can honestly stand in the gap for our kids.
It Ain’t Easy being a Dad, but after a weekend with my daughter and her friend, It Ain’t Easy being a Teenager either.