My daughter asked if she could ride her bike over to her friend’s house today. I said sure, but I wanted her home at 6:30 so we could have dinner. She didn’t show until 7:00 and I was more than a little pissed. This isn’t the first time she’s been late and the last time it happened she got a tongue lashing, so I was surprised it happened again. On top of that I have to admit that tardiness is probably my biggest pet-peeve, so I’m pre-disposed to getting a mad about it.
When she got home I told her we’d have to figure out a punishment, which sent her into major-league pout mode. She didn’t eat dinner (we went out for pizza) and sulked the whole time. When we got home I went back into my office to do some work and she came in to ask me what her punishment would be. I said it would probably cost her points (we have an incentive program that allows the kids to start each week with $10 in the bank, but throughout the week we give them points for things that are either done wrong or not done when they are supposed to be…each point is worth 50 cents), and she started to stomp out of my office. I told her to come back and then we had this conversation (I’m paraphrasing):
Me: "You don’t think you deserve to be punished?"
Daughter: "I punished myself by not eating dinner!"
Me: "No, you told me you didn’t want pizza so I’d say you were pouting."
Me: "Well, I didn’t ask you not to eat. And this isn’t the first time you’ve been late, so I think maybe you need something to remind you to be on time."
Daughter: "The last time I was only five minutes late and you yelled at me…alot!" "It was only five minutes!"
Me: "It was more than five minutes, and it doesn’t matter. When we tell you to be home at a certain time you need to make sure you’re here on time."
Daughter, glaring at me says nothing.
Me, feeling the heat rise: "So you think it’s okay for you to be late even though you inconvenienced four other people? We were ready to go to dinner at 6:30 and we waited 1/2 hour for you. You think that’s fair?"
Daughter continues glaring and mutters something under her breath.
Me, heat REALLY rising: "You don’t want to be punished!? Fine, I won’t punish you. But remember this moment the next time you ask me to give you a ride somewhere or even better, remember this moment when I decide that it isn’t important to be at one of your soccer games on time and I feel like getting there 1/2 hour late. Just remember it."
Daughter, shooting death daggers at me with her eyes: "I HATE YOU!"
She turns and leaves. On her way out I say, "I’m sorry you hate me because I love you very much."
Daughter: "I don’t care."
I don’t care who you are, those last two hurt. Of course I couldn’t let it show (I’m a guy), but it stung like hell. Thankfully Celeste saw what was going on and came in and talked me down. She also coached me on how to patch it up…I’d tell you how, but I’m thinking I could rent Celeste’s advisory services to other fathers of teenage girls. If my household is indicative I’ll be able to quit my day job.
My daughter is only 12 and I’m worried I may not make it to 13. I don’t even want to think about 14-20. God help me.