Family Life

Am I just the Dad you predicted I would be?

The guff I come out with talking to my teenage daughter ... but she doesn't make it easy

“Youth is wasted on the young” said Oscar Wilde once upon a time of privilege, talent and fawning acclaim.
The same man who would later pen the Ballad of Reading Gaol, line after anguished line about the last days of a condemned murderer, but really about his far fallen self.
 No, that’s not where Generation Snowflake are heading …
But it is amazing how the young can make their first steps into early adulthood, especially, so hard for themselves. And for those closest to them. Those who would guide them, as best they know. And pay most of their bills.
Sorry …
 Truth is I’m getting it just as right and wrong with our one tween and one teen as the next Dad. And sometimes I actually make things worse.
But they can be so annoying for us parents: picking at the one spot in their otherwise perfect complexions, and timidly agonising over what the world thinks of them. And not so timidly deriding our efforts to limit phone use, or get them to do their Spanish homework.
But then maybe wisdom is wasted on the mature: what do we well upholstered old farts actually do about the world we critique from our well-upholstered sofas? At least you can get a good laugh out of YouTube …
But I do fear that maybe education is being wasted on the young too. Not just the narrow educational attainment thing, but in preparing them for life. Of the soul as well as of the career.
I went to college myself. Both as a clueless 16 going on 17-year-old, and then as a working adult, hungry for identified knowledge and determined to make the most of it.
The younger guy wafted through his first university degree course, somehow collecting a parchment and a career he would soon abandon, or rather never really take up.
The older me never missed a lecture, and the parchment arrived long after the new career was eagerly embarked upon. The same career hasn’t been roses since, but it’s been okay.
It was during my first spell in college I came upon that great concept, the “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
For me then it was the somewhat literal notion that you actually determined your own path in life by believing it was going to be so, and then acting to make it happen. Just as you “predicted”.
It was tied in for me with learning how people from disadvantaged backgrounds failed in education because they believed there was no point in “people like them” going to college because the Varadkars running the country didn’t care about people like them.
Realisations like this fired those student marches and protests I took part in with youthful gusto. Wish I had that passion now …
The self-fulfilling prophecy idea has stayed with me, and I see it working in ways I had never considered.
Like the other day, at the dinner table when 14-year-old K pushed away her plate of “horrible” beef stroganoff and told us she was going back up to her room.
Not before finishing her salvo about getting driving lessons when she was 16 and having her own car, “and nothing you can do about it”.
And I found myself sniping away about young people being “way too irresponsible and inconsiderate” to be driving at a young age.
“And certainly not you, K, unless you start showing the kind of responsibility and thought for others you need if you are going to be driving a car on a public road,” I heard myself say.
Yes, I was also venting my anger at the thousand scowls and sullen barbs directed every day at our efforts to manage our 14-year-old girl. We say toe-mate-o …
But I thought later of our old friend, the self-fulfilling prophecy.
I hated the reactionary guff I was coming out with, but in this arena of raised voices and flushed convictions, I felt like a prisoner in a constructed gaol. Built by K and me. Together.
Not quite Reading Gaol, but a gaol nonetheless. Shaped by her opinion of me, I was, and am, acting and behaving accordingly. Unless we can build an escape tunnel …
I was saying things like: “look at the statistics, the amount of traffic accidents and deaths caused by young drivers”.
Statistics which of course I had pulled out of my derriere, backed by images of news reports of another car load of youngsters careering into a wall on the way home from a nightclub.
No mention did I make to K then of my wife’s fantastic recently turned 21-year-old nephew who works so hard at the weekends and completely finances the car he drives up and back to college in.
Our kids can and do strip us of our pompous cloaks of sophistication, sophistry and people-off-the world experience.
But sometimes things are just a bit more than young adult black and white and evolving grey, and as parents, we simply have to hold unpopular lines.
The other night I met up, as I regularly do, with a great friend, and it was wonderful to sink into that lovely warm overcoat of shared experience and unstated backstory, and just talk. Over pints.
As always our conversation soared effortlessly in directions familiar and sparklingly unexpected, anchored on our mutual regard and affection, and a feeling of being in a safe, safe place. And I’m not just talking about the pub!
I was enjoying my pal, but I was enjoying myself, as in enjoying my self.
Here we were, yarning and fulminating and making light and merry and interesting. The good old boys of our own self-fulfilling prophesy.
Then another thought cut into my lager reverie:
“Pity you’re not like this with your daughter”.
Instead of a gaol, why aren’t we building a safe, safe place — like the one my pal and I have made for ourselves?
A sun-filled, open-plan place where K and I can laugh and talk and share, better than even Dermot Bannon could design, out of which she will one day walk to take her full place in the real world. A good life.

The one she prophesied and I helped her fulfil.

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28 comments on “Am I just the Dad you predicted I would be?

  1. Daydreamer mum

    Bloody love this ,so hard!!! Kids (especially teens) can bring out the worst version of us. I am a total hypocrite and I know it , being hard on the 15yo for getting in trouble at school whilst knowing I tell her always to never stand by and let injustice happen….when she’s being ‘mouthy” in school she thinks she’s standing up for what she believes in and it’s so hard !!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t know where to start, the twists and turns and choosing battles … right now our girl is singing in the kitchen, she’s baking and she’s happy … but the song has a big, loud f-word in it: do I hold the party line and call her out on the language or do I let her sing along happily? This time I let her sing away … thanks for your comment


  2. parenting doesn’t come with a manual , we can only do our best with the skills and personalities we have. And teens are HARD, they’re designed to push all your buttons and test all the boundaries, its their job to try and redefine the space and the future as their own. They’re supposed to grow and become the stronger leader (if you look at nature, we ld crocks are always ousted by the strong new generation 😉 ) – all teens think their friends parents are way cooler, more understanding etc. Just wait though… on the other side of the battle ground, there is an acceptance and joy and understanding and love more profound and wonderful than anything. Those moments post teen when your kids make great adult decisions, or thank you , or say things that you said to them years before. When they go into the world and make a go of it. those are the joys #lgrtstumble

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thing is Rose I get all that and love seeing our girl grow and evolve and ask all those questions … it’s just i wish she wouldn’t be so over the top rude about it all sometimes, and so ungrateful about certain things. I know she’s doing fine outside and feels safe in a weird way to attack us, but Jesus wept, it is hard sometimes. I appreciate your comments, and your encouraging observations; and you so are obviously well tuned in and wise. Thanks so much


  3. I love this although it makes me fearful for when my two grow up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Isn’t it so strange that our kids feel that they can be the rudest towards us, those who love them the most? I can’t wait for the day when that has all passed, I get glimpses of it now and then at the moment – a shared joke or mutual appreciation of a particular thing. I know we are not meant to be ‘buddies’ to our kids but occasionally you’d like to feel liked by them wouldn’t you? My husband and I were chatting about the way we speak to our daughter recently and have decided now that it is definitely the tone of voice we adopt that is most alienating to her. We are going to attempt to keep calm and measured at all times from now on 😀 😀 LGRTStumble

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is … it feels like I have to perfect the same amnesia when it comes to our K”s rudeness as she does. She can be off the wall one minute and blithely asking for bus fare the next. I can’t wait for proper conversations and responsible behaviour so we can engage properly .. not as friends, as you say Liberty, but as loving family members!


  5. Kate@TheMumConundrum

    Great post – the worst thing for me is that I can remember been a teen and despairing of my parents – now I’m a Mum it’s all too clear how bloody tricky it is to get it right! #ablogginggoodtime x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the concept of being an emotional ‘safe place’ for our children. It’s so important to help keep the communication going. Thanks for this reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is — when when what’s coming back at you is hardly charm personified! And yes, thta safe place is so important. Thanks for your comment


  7. Rhyming with Wine

    My two are still so little, but I take comfort in trying to convince myself that the reason my eldest is cheeky and pushes the boundaries at home (when she’s reported to be an angel at school) is that we are her safe place. We are the place where she feels safe and free to experiment and unleash. I’m also a big believer in the self fulfilling prophecy. “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Thanks for linking up with us for #DreamTeam Enda

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a new appreciation for just how hard it must’ve been for my parents to raise us children! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Being a teen is very difficult no doubt there but being a parent of a teen is a lot harder, so many mistakes I have made great read Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t have teenagers yet, although I do often question if I do based on their attitude but I am actually really nervous about that stage, I wasn’t the easiest of teenagers! I think you are building a safe place, even if it might not seem like it. My parents did and I definitely resisted the rules but without them, I wonder how my life may have differed? Thanks for linking this to #thursdayteam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your lovely, considered response. I suppose at the end of the day, we are optimistic that it will all work out. But it sure is a trying period, I can’t deny it! It’s easy to be liberal and give them loads of rope, but like you intimated, they won’t appreciate you for it later on.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lucy At Home

    Such a thought-provoking piece. The self-fulfilling prophecy is something that I think about a lot – I try hard not to label my kids “naughty” or “lazy”, etc, because they will come to believe that of themselves then behave that way. But it can be so hard in the heat of the moment. #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh my gosh … talk to me about heat of the moment!! And some of the regrettable encounters with my girl when I have been provoked — but really should not have taken the bait!!! Thanks for your lovely comment


  13. Ah yes… parenthood – the perfect stick to beat ourselves with, and made of the hardest hickory, too! Another great piece, Enda.

    Liked by 1 person

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