My oldest daughter is twelve. She’s tween going on eighteen. Communicating with her has become quite a challenge. Not quite an extract-a-tooth-from-a-grumpy-hungry-great-white-shark challenge, but an extract-a-tooth-from-a-grumpy-tweenage-great-white-shark challenge.
Here are five rules for communicating with her that I’ve deduced from recent conversations:
1. Don’t. Seriously, dad. Like, go away. This is embarassing, even if no one else is around. And, like, why are you in my room?
2. See rule #1. Like, for real, dad. Like, can’t we do this some other time? Like, never?
3. Prepare for the stare. You’re not going away, are you? You’re going to force me to stand here and talk to you instead of, like, using your phone like a normal person. Fine. I’ll just, like, stare at you with an expression that communicates, “What in the world is he saying? I don’t understand a word coming out of his mouth. It’s like he’s speaking, like, Russian or whatevs.” I’m hoping you’ll just stop mid-sentence, confused, and mutter something like, “You’re not listening to a word I’m saying.” You may ground me or take away my iPod or, like, cut off the Internet so I can’t text my friends. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make if you will just go away.
4. OMG, if you must talk to me, just text me. Texting is my native language. I don’t care if you’re standing right next to me. I, like, text faster than I talk. And I don’t have to hear your old man voice. I don’t care if you have sausage fingers, just use your phone for what it was made for–texting. And why are you, like, still in my room?!?
5. Keep trying. OK, Dad, here’s the truth. I may put up a front like I’m all independent and what not, but the truth is I do need you to talk to me. I need you to tell me you love me and that you care about what’s going on in my life. I want you to be interested in what I’m interested in, even if you don’t understand it. We may not always connect when we communicate, but please keep trying. Because you’re my daddy. And I love you.
I love you, too, baby girl. Now clean your room before something starts growing out of your carpet.
Dads, what are some of your struggles in communicating with your kids? Tell us about how you’re succeeding in communicating with them. We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.
Aaron Saufley is a husband and dad who happens to moonlight as a hospice chaplain and preacher. He thinks Netflix is the greatest human invention next to pizza. He loves hanging out with his family, and when he has the time he also enjoys writing, a good cigar, craft root beer, smoking a mean rack of baby backs, movies, and trying not to die while running. Follow Aaron on twitter.