My daughter Becki is in a world of her own and seems to have no interest in building a future for herself.
Becki is 15-years-old and her grades are C’s, sometimes even D’s. She and her friends spend far too much time gossiping, texting, shopping and on sleepovers. They’re obsessed with celebrity gossip and who’s dating who at school. And she has no interest in studying or a career.
I’m a single mom working at a law firm and worked my butt off to get to where I am – against a lot of hardship and struggle.
I want Becki to make something of herself too – but she’s just not interested. I don’t get any help from her father who think she’s just being a typical teen and that I ride her too hard.
So what do I do Will? How can I get my daughter to knuckle down?
When my son was three, he wanted to be an astronaut, until he woke up crying one night because he’d had a nightmare about being all alone on the moon. Since then, he’s wanted to be a karate teacher, pilot, doctor, a singer, a professional guitarist, and an artist. He’s 16 now and wants to be an animator for Disney or Pixar. My daughter is 14 and her list ranges from a zoologist and veterinarian to lawyer and clinical psychologist. My dream for them both is simple: I want them to be happy. I want them to live happy, healthy, meaningful, lives accomplishing the things that they think are important.
This is a lot trickier than it sounds. I don’t want them to be happy and content living in refrigerator boxes down on Biddle Street. I also don’t want them getting drunk on thousand dollar bottles of champagne and jumping out of their penthouse windows because wasting their lives building their million-dollar net worth has left them hollow on the inside. The problem is that the gray area between the two leaves every other possible scenario wide open. I just want my kids to be good, happy, people.
I think us dads stop seeing our children as babies and start seeing them as people a little earlier than moms do. So, even though some moms won’t agree, here’s what this dad thinks you should do:
THE QUICK FIX HERE IS FAIRLY SIMPLE: You’re a mom; you want her to get good grades. She’s a teen; she wants her freedom. Time to negotiate! The parent giveth and the parent taketh away. When she gets C’s and D’s, she loses her cell phone, which is akin to taking away a teenage girl’s oxygen. When she fails tests; you cancel sleepovers. When the grades come up to an acceptable level, she gets everything back. Once these rules are set, stick to them. The first time you fold, you lose all credibility. Remember; you hold all the cards. She will cry, scream, beg, call her dad, and maybe even call your mom. And you’ll definitely get the “you’re trying to ruin my life” speech. Stay strong. Once Hurricane Becki blows herself out, she’ll see she that you aren’t giving in, and she’ll get it together.
THE LIFE LESSON IS MUCH HARDER: You’ve worked hard your whole life. You studied for countless hours to get your degree. You’re a single mom, which means you‘ve had to take up a lot of the slack for a dad who isn’t around. On top of that, you’ve had to work long days away from your daughter to provide her with the kind of life that you think she deserves. The problem is that she’s watched you bust your hump since she was a baby. She’s seen you stressed out, exhausted, sucking down coffee and staring at a stack of legal papers through blood-shot eyes, knowing that sleep was not an option. And you wonder why she’s in no hurry to slip into your shoes. I’m betting your mother isn’t a lawyer, which means you didn’t follow in her footsteps because you didn’t want her life. It was nothing personal, it just wasn’t where you saw yourself. Hopefully, thinking about that will soften the blow as I tell you that your daughter doesn’t want your life either. It’s just not where she sees herself.
NOW THINK WAAAAY BACK: Try to remember being sixteen. Before college, before jobs, before husbands and children and bills and mortgages…all the way back to first boyfriends and sleepovers. What was important to you? How hard were you really thinking about your future? Hopefully, you were having fun, laughing on the phone, trying to figure out what to wear tomorrow incase that cute boy sat next to you in science class. Now keep that in mind as you sit down and talk to you daughter. (Notice I didn’t say “preach to her” or “lecture her”). Ask her what she’s interested in. Ask what her favorite class is. Talk about her hobbies. And, if you’re lucky enough to get her talking, sit back and listen. Actually listen. Find out who she wants to be and how she plans to get there. Don’t force-feed her your ideas; plant some seeds and let her grow her own. You’ve raised her. You’ve taught her. Now help her get to the gate to start her life.
There’s a great adult in there. You’ll see. Good luck to both of you!
William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.