‘Why did you do that?’ he shouted. ‘You promised you would stop and yet you keep on doing it!’
‘No, I, don’t!’ she said with as much defiance as she could muster.
‘You do. You did it yesterday morning, last night and you are doing it right now!’
‘I didn’t do it yesterday, and even if I did it’s because you made me!’ she shouted as she ran up the stairs and slammed the door to her bedroom. The ceiling reverberated with things being thrown onto the floor.
He let out a rush of air, and wanted to kick the wall. How was it possible to get so wound up? His mind was racing. At that age if he’d run up the stairs and slammed the door he’d have had a good hiding and not been able to sit down for a week.
He clenched and unclenched his fists, fighting the urge to give her what for, and let out another sigh of deep anger and frustration. Feelings rushed to the surface which had lain repressed. So strong that they coursed unhindered up and down his veins, so consuming that he felt them in every fibre of his being. He knew that he didn’t know how to handle her or his feelings. He simply couldn’t trust his instincts. He’d proven they were wrong, based as they were on an antiquated template used over twenty years ago. He desperately didn’t want to repeat their mistakes. But, there he was, needing to parent yet feeling so woefully inadequate.
He put the kettle on and sat down at the kitchen table. Another deep sigh escaped his lips as his mind raced for a solution.
Do I go up there and tell her off for stamping her feet, slamming the door and trashing her bedroom? Will that make it worse? Will she react even more? Is it because I don’t understand her? Is it because I get home from work too late? Is it because I don’t pay her enough attention, don’t listen to her, don’t do the host of other things she demands from me?
Or is it because I spoil her? Is it because I listen too much, am too accommodating, don’t know how to say no?
He sighed again. He’d been round this loop a thousand times yet it got no easier.
He knew he loved her. Loved her with every fibre of being he possessed. Yet why did he feel so guilty? Why did she react like that to him? Was it because he wasn’t able to be a real dad? She was so self conscious that she refused to wear a brace to school. Was he so wrong to demand she did? Knowing that a short period of discomfort now was worth it for the long run? Threaten to take her phone and internet access of her if she didn’t.
That’s what caused arguments like he’d just had. A clash of wills. A fight for independence. A need for boundaries. Love in the midst of strife. Was the way he dealt with her yesterday the right way to deal with her today?
He put his head in his hands and felt like crying. How was it possible that he could manage hundreds of staff and yet be so easily moved to tears by his daughter. A daughter who had the ability with just one word to get right under his skin and arouse feelings that left him exasperated, shaken and uncertain.
He looked wistfully at the dregs in his coffee cup and heard his daughter open her bedroom door and come down the stairs. He steeled himself, wanting to be soft, loving and at the same time an enforcer of sane boundaries.
‘Sorry about before dad. Could you give me a lift round to Suzie’s?’
If you are a dad, you may recognise yourself in this completely fictional story. And I don’t really have 12 and 15 year old girls..