Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mental Health... With a Fourteen-Year-Old Daughter

Since so many blogs deal with hygiene of the mind, body and spirit it's difficult to get through even a few without being brought to the brink of self destruction by tales of obsession, compulsion, emotional angst and exasperation.

As the father of a fourteen-year-old daughter I often sink into self reflection about the meaning of life; whether life has any meaning and the most important existential question facing fathers of adolescent young ladies:

Is life too short, or is life too long?

After several years of morbid introspection I've been able to answer several questions about myself.

Obsessed? No. Compulsive? No. Overcome with angst? No.

Exasperated? Yes. A resounding and unequivocal yes.

That's why I am taking this opportunity to post my secret for a happy and angst-free coexistance with your teenaged daughter.

Say yes to everything!

This is an approach I've always believed, in theory, but have very rarely put into practice.

Case in point. Little Angel comes to me two weeks ago with a proposition:

"Dad, we'd like to give Olivia a surprise birthday party."

"Go ahead," says dad, "make yourself happy."

"But we want to have the party here, in our house."

"Absolutely not!"

Mistake. Mistake. Mistake.

I know in these instances that my no is never final. Teenaged girls believe that a "no" is simply the start of the negotiation, or trial by ordeal as it's known in my household.

"Why can't you arrange it all with Olivia's parents and have it at her house?" It seemed a reasonable query.

"Olivia is being punished, and they just finished fixing their house so they don't want it..."

"They don't want it shambalized by a horde of marauding suburban teenagers... right?"

"Uhhhh... well... yeah."

"But it's okay for you shambalize our house?"

"Uhhhh... well... yeah."

And so it went... for two solid weeks... until I finally relented, which I always do. For those of you who are looking forward to simliar episodes with your now-compliant pre-teens, understand this:

With a teenaged daughter, no always means maybe, maybe always means yes, and compromise is only one small step toward total victory.

So surrender immediately and save yourself a lot of grief.

Until modern technology advances to a state where I can personally monitor her every movement--and every thought--each moment of uncertaintly will continue to pile aggravation on top of aggravation.

So why add to the avalanche.

But there's more to it than saving yourself mental anguish and domestic turmoil.

There are practical reasons for going to immediate and unconditional surrender. Because no matter what she wants to do, if it involves the participation of one or more of her friends the chances are 999-to-1 that's it's never going to happen.

I don't know when I'll learn this lesson. Maybe now it will sink in.

Little Angel comes home yesterday to find me clearing tools and construction materials out of our family room in preparation for this Friday Night Soiree for Olivia.

"What are you doing Dad?"

"I'm clearing things out for Olivia's party."

"Oh, I meant to tell you, we're not having a party. Ya know, Olivia said blah blah to Katrina about Theresa and then Katrina told Kiara and Kiara told Theresa and now nobody is talking to Olivia so we're not having a suprise party because noboby wants to come."

Good grief. Thank heaven.

When will I ever learn?

So, am I obsessed, compulsive, angst filled?

Don't be ridiculous. There's not enough room in my psyche to be even slightly over-committed to anything, let alone obsessed.

I have a teenaged daughter, for heaven's sake!


rreynolds said...

Oh, so true. Had I only learned these lessons back when my daughter still had feelings for me. I lost all my filial capital saying "no" to each and every one of her machinations. Nothing your daughter says proves to be true, so go ahead and be her hero: just say "yes."

annie morgan said...

"With a teenaged daughter, no always means maybe, maybe always means yes, and compromise is only one small step toward total victory."

It's nice to see someone has finally figured it out. :)

Thanks so much for the comment on my blog. I have, for weeks now, been trying to remember if I did or did not respond. I finally decided that even if I did, I should do so again, just for good measure. And in doing so, I think I'm pretty sure that I never did in the first place. So, here's apologies for such a late thank you, and here's a thank you for stopping by.

Mr. Jack tells me about you almost at least once in every conversation we have. He is singlehandedly the best possible networking system that anyone could have, and I can't believe he's talked real writers like yourself into spending time at my lemonade stand. He's amazing in more ways than one.

Thanks again!