It had been a long and intense evening of discussion. Mother, father, daughter all holed up in her room, while the boys waited in another part of the house and wondered if they were going to get to eat dinner.
We discussed her school schedule and our disagreements about it. We discussed priorities, desires, boys, grades, cell phones, behavior, attitude. She got angry, calmed down, cried, tried to distract herself by cleaning her room. Every once in awhile, the dog or the preschooler or the dog and the preschooler made an appearance. Daryl tried to remind us there were other people in the house. The discussion lasted nearly two hours and left us all drained. Drained, but not really at odds with each other. From the parental perspective, the talk had gone well. We had accomplished our objectives.
Per the new cell phone directives, she handed me her phone as she resumed her homework. I looked down at her wall paper and asked who it was.
“Channing Tatum,” she replied, smiling up at me like she dared me to say something. She had recently had a mild argument with her aunt over whether he qualified as “hot”.
After a brief pause for effect, I smiled back and nodded. “You’ve got pretty good taste.”
“I know,” she said. And then under her breath but with a smile, “Unlike you.”
“What did you say?”
“Well… my dad’s really not all that, ya know.”
“What are you talking about?! He is the hottest man on the planet!”
Laughing, she put her hands up in protest. “Okay, you can stop now.”
“No, really. Your dad is hot!”
“You should have seen him in high school…”
“Really! You don’t need to do this!”
“…He was so tall with broad shoulders…” I gazed longingly at him in the other room as she interrupted.
“Enough! Please! I don’t need to hear this!”
I adopted my best imitation of her swooning teenager voice. “I’m telling you. He was a man among boys!”
“Okaaayyy!!” The embarrassed laughter and friendly banter seemed to break through the slightly reserved interaction we had had a few minutes prior. As she laughed and kicked around, the smiley face eraser fell off her pencil and onto the floor. Rose dove in after it.
“Rose! No! Don’t eat my smiley face! Mom! She just ate my eraser!”
Rose certainly appeared to have something in her mouth so I reached down to fish it out while Jane nearly fell over from laughing. That’s when I noticed the eraser tucked behind a chair leg. We laughed some more. It felt good.
I had been down in the dumps all day, dreading the conversation. It is more difficult to parent a preteen/teenager than I ever could have imagined. The previous night, her dad and I had discussed what we needed to talk to Jane about. I was distressed and anxious. I didn’t want to be a parent of a twelve year old anymore. I didn’t want to do the hard work. I didn’t want to take the abuse. I didn’t want to have the arguments that are inevitable when what the parents think is best conflicts with what the child wants.
Then we talked. And it was hard. But not as bad as I had feared. And then we laughed and teased and I was in love with my daughter again. There will be more rough times ahead; but as long as we can find something to laugh about afterwards, maybe it will all be ok.