I was an awful teen. I can say that now that I’m in my 30’s, because I sure didn’t think so then. I thought my parents were idiots, completely clueless about anything in life. I was sassy (to put it nicely) and sullen. I would lock myself in my room all day long just to be on my own. And if they tried to ask me anything, it would most likely be met with a roll of the eyes. The rules they infringed on me were ridiculous. The expectations they had were ludicrous. There was nothing worse than doing things as a family. I’d save myself by plugging into my walkman and zoning out. In my defense, I wouldn’t say I was any different than any other teen. I had two sisters who were just as cheeky as me when I was a teen, but I was just louder about it. So I was always the one who got in trouble.
The result to my difficult teenage years was a rift in my relationship with my dad. He couldn’t relate with me, which made me unable to relate with him. Any conversation between us usually ended up with slammed doors or strong words. He had high expectations of me. I just wanted him to leave me alone. I think the hardest part to all of this was the fact that we had actually been really close before everything changed. To suddenly find ourselves in this canyon was shocking to both of us. I hurt on the inside (though I never let him know) because he was so disappointed in me. His approval meant everything. And because he didn’t approve of this cranky teenager I was becoming, I went out of my way to be worse. I acted like I didn’t care at all. I figured that by “not caring”, I wouldn’t hurt as much. I think I have a clear understanding that he was hurt too.
There was one thing, though, that brought us close together – coffee in the morning. We had a ritual. Every morning he woke up super early to get to work, but would start out with a cup of coffee in the morning over the newspaper. I would wake up early as well to get a cup of Joe. And together we would sip coffee, even occasionally sharing stories in the paper. In those few moments before the rest of the house woke up, it was like time had reversed. There was no rift. Occasionally there was even a mutual truce put up as we talked about the hard stuff. It was when we connected.
Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. Our family all sat around the table at Olive Garden in Rohnert Park, celebrating my dad’s 60+ years. It was amazing to see how full circle we’ve come in our own relationship. My dad is the man that I look to when I think of how a man should be. He’s a great dad, and an even better grandpa. He’s been my kids’ role model and father figure, as he was mine all along.
The reason I write this is because I know there are a lot of parents of teenagers out there that are at their wit’s end with children who have suddenly become something they don’t recognize anymore. It will pass, I promise. Someday you will be able to sit with your child, and know that they are your friend. And that might be hard to see right now. So find the one thing that you DO have in common, and hold on to it. For my dad and me, it was morning coffee. For you it might be something totally different. Whatever it is, let them meet you. If that one small thing is the only thing holding the two of you together for the next few years, so be it. They want you to care. They want you to listen. And they want you to be the constant in their lives. But they just can’t say it. At least not yet.