There are many interesting and unique relationships in life: husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, grandparent-grandchild and father-son. But as I get older, I realize that none is more colorful or emotion-provoking as the one between a teenage girl and her mother. This duo can take things to a whole different level.
The more I think I understand it, the less I really do. And this is proven to me on an almost daily basis. Things change rather quickly without warning. From best friends and confidants to East Germany and West Germany during the Cold War. And all it takes to light the fuse is a loud sigh, a cocky tone of voice, a rolling of the eyes or a combination of all three. Detente can crumble quickly. Sadly, an innocent husband and father can get caught in the cross-fire.
I am not sure when it happened, but sometime after my daughter turned 13, she began to believe that she lived in a democratic environment; that she had an equal vote. Discord can arise over a variety of things, but in our house it usually starts with a mention of chores, such as doing the dishes or cleaning the cat litter.
Though she gets pretty good grades, has a heart of gold and is a kid any parent would be proud of, apparently she suffers from a condition that leads to short-term memory loss. She can tell you exactly how many days until Christmas or her birthday. However, her responsibilities around the house, which were discussed at length the day before, are quickly forgotten.
Tasks that are supposed to be taken care of before she runs to the computer are put in the "I'll do it later" category. While pleading exhaustion after a day at school, forgotten is the fact that her parents fulfilled their classroom requirements years ago. And that although we both trudge off to work every day, we still have duties at home -- even when we're tired!
Now I admit that sweeping and vacuuming aren't as important to me as they should be. I need occasional prodding myself. But when the voices of the females in the house start to rise, I find myself hoping that my daughter will see the error of her ways and just do it. Deep down though, I know that I won't get off that easy.
As I hit the mute button to listen for any progress being made, I hear the dreaded call to arms. I am being dragged into the fray. I know my wife has reached her tolerance level when she starts a sentence with, "Your daughter . . ." Then I get recruited with, "You really need to say something."
So I approach my daughter for her version of the events, and the term "she" is used instead of "Mom." I get "the look," which infers that I really don't understand. This is followed by the "life isn't fair" refrain. I find myself repeating the "who ever said life is fair?" speech, reinforced quickly with "you need to stop and think how good you have it in this house." I wish I had some new material.
Obviously there are no winners here. Deep down I'm thinking: "Can't we all just get along?" But eventually the dust settles and all is quiet on the western front.
As I sit and ask myself if this is how it is in other households, and wonder how other fathers deal with the intricacies of females on a collision course, I hear the two of them discussing in friendly tones the latest high school drama or what the mall has to offer. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but they are best friends again.
I feel a sense of relief. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to tell my wife that the next time -- and there will be a next time -- I'd like to avoid involvement. I just want to be Switzerland.