(Another piece inspired by the frustrations of dealing with a young teenage daughter)
“Okay, darling, just letting you know it’s half-seven. You don’t have to get up now or anything like that but it is a school morning ….
“And don’t bother gathering up your pencil-case and all that stuff you left all over your brother’s desk when you did your homework there last night. I know I asked you six times last night to do it, but like you said, why should you?“
The expression on my 13-year-old daughter’s face as her tousled head pushes against the pillow towards me and her eyes blink open is one of complete bafflement. I leave her to it.
Good morning, it’s Sarcastic Dad!
Yesterday hadn’t gone well for Narky Dad or Cajoling Dad, and that complete loser, Softly-Softly Dad, got short shrift altogether as they took on the unpredictable hormonal might of Young Teen Girl. She who scowled in the door after school that afternoon behind her younger brother’s cheery “Hi, Dad!”.
House policy is shoes off straight away, jackets hung up and lunch boxes out of the schoolbags and on the counter. Well, the first two have survived. To now.
“Whatever, Dad!” she harrumphed as she brushed past me to stand up, shoes and all, on the couch to check her hair in the dining room mirror.
I started to give out. “Come down off that …”
She cut in: “Do you think I’m pretty Dad?” … “I hate my hair today … can you still see the red? I hate it ….”
I was sorting his hot dog and the penne was on. The same penne she loves with parmesan. But now it was bubbling away she wasn’t sure. I made to turn it off. “It’s okay, I suppose,” she sniffed as she headed for the sitting room.
Who is this Changeling? She looks like our girl, sounds like her …
I brought in the penne and clocked the jacket on the sofa beside her. She had flicked on Netflix, which is not allowed, and has never been allowed until homework is over. No other girl in her class has parents who stop their children watching a little bit of telly while they wait for their lunch. We’re so strict!
Narky Dad inhaled deeply and insisted she turn it off. When he returned minutes later, and noted the bowl of half-eaten penne beside the same jacket, he flipped.
On it went, Narky Dad doing all the bad cop stuff, like giving out over the behaviour warning from her teacher. The same teacher was just being a bitch, I just made out through the bathroom door.
With Narky flagging, Cajoling appealed to her obvious ability in school and she had told us herself her teacher was really nice and, more importantly, fair.
“Put yourself in her shoes, she has to teach to 20 or more boys and girls and you’re talking away, interrupting her …
”I was only talking a bit … she was just being dramatic, and anyway she has favourites.’
On it went. Homework finally started — and completed — under duress … deciding which act of unthinking disregard to tackle, which to ignore … trying to converse, check in, before the phone came on and all contact with her was lost.
There was a last, tired tirade from her about the wardrobe bursting with nothing to wear before poor put upon daughter huffed off to sleep, and Narky, Cajoling and Softly, Softly rolled into their own bed in exhausted despair not long after.
This morning, Young Teen Girl is soon out of the bathroom. Usually her brother has to wait but her hair is already pinned up and she’s on her way downstairs. No last-minute giving out either to mom because she can’t find her black leggings.
Or berating us for not charging the phone she didn’t tell us needed charging. Yes, of course we had told her to charge it herself.
“Right,” I inform her as she hits the All Bran Golden Crunch, “When you come in this afternoon, I want you to leave the shoes on, and pick a favourite spot to throw down your jacket. Just so we know …”
She looks straight at me — for the first time in a while — with contempt — for the first time in, oh, a minute.
“Who are you talking to, Dad? I’m not listening …”
“No, no, I’m serious … taking off those mucky shoes, it is a bit of a drag that. We’re definitely going too far there … “
“Whatever, Dad, I’m still not listening …”
“No, honestly all that stuff you’re saying to us about being way too strict, not letting you hang around outside Tescos or the chippers with your friends. The same friends you ignored for the last year and a half. We know that boys can just be friends too …”
She’s really cheesed off now, her voice raised. “Shut up, Dad. I’m still not listening to you.”
“Like you told us, Keelin, you are changing and we don’t understand you … so I suppose you do have to shout at us, and insult us so we will try a bit harder to really get you.”
“You’re just being dramatic, as usual, Dad …”
My wife is hating this now too, asking me what she thinks it will achieve. I’m too deep into character now — look out Daniel Day-Lewis — and I turn it on her.
“I know, I know, I haven’t got a clue … your way is working so well …”
Not even our boy is safe. “Don’t let me disturb your there, son, on your iPad, that you’re not supposed to be on either in the morning …”
“I’m only checking the football …”
“I’m wondering is your hair going to brush itself …”
We’re into the car and down at the bus stop near our estate before all the others. For the last three weeks we’d come screeching at the last minute into the last-chance stop at the top of the village.
Not today, though. Everyone on time. What’s a few swear words and grunts when you get the job done?
Sarcastic Dad, eh! He might be back.
— Enda Sheppard