Mother-Daughter Wars, Round One

Everyone said when your daughter hits 12 things are gonna change. My daughter has always been a daddy’s girl and that hasn’t changed. I get a bit of ‘tude now that I never used to, but with all the hormones flooding her body now I don’t take offense. I never was a girl, but I understand that girls go through a lot more changes than boys do. After all, their bodies are getting ready to make humans. At puberty all we do is get some hair and perpetual hard-ons.

The biggest difference, however, occurs in the relationship between daughter and mother. As you know by now, I am divorced, which probably complicates things a bit, but doesn’t change the main premise. For some reason girls get really weird toward their moms at this age. A dad always get pulled into any problems between a daughter and mother – that’s just the way women are. Problems are discussed – they are a group activity. For men, problem-solving is a solo job. I usually try to stay out of it, but when the “big change” happens there ain’t no staying out of it.

Recently, my daughter has decided she pretty much just wants to live with me. It started slowly by asking for an extra night with me here and there (which of course thrilled me). Then there started to be a pattern. A pretty strong pattern. This puts me in a funny position, because I divorced her mom. Meaning, quite literally, I didn’t want to live with her any more. My daughter has pointed that out. Now, 12-year olds say a lot of things they probably don’t mean. And I know she loves her mama, but it’s a hard spot.

To be honest, I’ve enjoyed the extra time with my daughter. I know she’s gonna grow up and move away, get married, etc. But the extra time I have with her comes at her mom’s expense. It’s a classic zero sum game. I know it’s killing her mom to hear her daughter say she wants to be with her dad tonight (again), and I try to leave it up to them to decide. No manipulation or taking advantage of the situation by me – I’m not an ass and hold no grudge against my ex. She made the best babies in the world. Perhaps, it’s just a bit of karma at work. In my favor, for once.

12-Year Old Female Visual Mood Map

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Question: Dad or Referee? Answer: Both

As my kids have grown up – they are now almost 9 (boy) and 12 (girl) – there’s a whole lot less cuteness between them and a whole lot more fighting. Instead of enjoying those innocent afternoons pushing them on the swings next to each other (great work out, by the way) I now feel like I am refereeing a 1,113 round prize fight. Funny thing is, like married couples, usually they are not fighting about anything important (he splashed me when he spit his toothpaste), they are just fighting because of how they feel – about themselves, about each other, about anything.

I got a lot of insight from my older sister over Thanksgiving when she, somewhat insultingly, said younger brothers are the most useless things on earth….for most of the time you are forced to live with them, they can’t protect you, you don’t want to date their friends, they can’t help you with homework, and in general, they’re just pretty stupid, immature and embarassing. I can’t say I had a comeback – check, check, check and check.

So, the question is what is my role now? It’s similar to when you see your kid getting into it with another kid on the playground and you don’t know whether to intervene or let them work it out – except in this case, they are BOTH your kids. In the playground scenario, you kind of want your kid to assert him or herself – ya know, come out on top. When they are both your kids that approach could turn into an arms race of sorts.

To be honest, my response is often dictated by my mood. Has one of them already pissed me off today? Do I feel like getting up off my ass to deal with it? Do I have a headache? I try to take a consistent approach to these situations, but how many of us are really consistent in our parenting in any way. We react to situations based on what is happening in THAT moment, and only later can we reflect on how we handled it. In hindsight I am sure we all would have handled many, many situations differently.

So, now that my kids are past the “age of innocence” and into the “age of aggression” (and hormones) my job becomes more divided between being referee and being just plain old dad. I guess it’s just one more division.

Getting Along

Getting Along