I know that there is a beautiful and sensitive woman in that confused teenage frame. Maybe I just need to be a better father to help you see it. I know other fathers must go through this as well, but I can’t help but think that I am exceptionally poor at trying to help you find your way.
Dear Alexandria and Mary Ellen,
Alex, today I kept you home from school, or more accurately, I let you stay home. You’ve had a cough your mother was concerned with, so I took you to the doctor. Now you are eating a clementine on the couch and watching Sherlock Holmes. You aren’t very sick and I could have easily taken you back to school without an ounce of concern, but the fact is that I just want to be near you. My little girl has grown into a young woman in the blink of an eye, and I feel like I have to get to know you all over again.
I wonder if you remember this morning. This has been a tough week in a tough month. You and I haven’t been getting along well, and this morning I did something in front of you I have never done outside of a funeral: I cried. I cried because I am afraid of losing what relationship I have with you. I cried out of the frustration and grief that the little girl is gone and the young woman is here all too soon. I cried because I am not a good father and I wish desperately that I was. Whatever it was that we were arguing about was only the final crack in a dam holding back my feelings, and that dam has been weakening for a long time.
You said you that were angry because I only talk in a yell, and because every time I address you it is because I want something from you (like a chore or whatnot). I shared with you that I am tired of my house being destroyed and that we don’t share the load like a family should; I fear that your mother, who must take on more than she should because of my frequent absences, is overworked to a terrifying degree. I didn’t share with you the most substantial reason behind my unendurable exasperation: I am tired of not understanding how to be a dad.
We ended that conversation with no conclusions reached, with much left unsaid and with no progress made. I retreated to some trivial cleaning task and you stayed silent on the couch. I don’t think progress in our relationship is possible until my own heart is molded into one whose primary characteristics are love and patience. For not the first time I cry out to my God, “Oh, that I could be a better man.”
For wherever we end up, please know this: I am trying my very hardest.
But then, there are still glimmers of hope.
As I write this, I am thinking back to last night. Your normal routine is to hibernate in some space that you stake out as your own; you tend towards introversion, and thus, the social nature of school seems to tire you out. I understand that need for solitude. I need it too, sometimes.
But, last night was different. For no reason other than that it seemed to suit you, you sat down with your sister and began to read to her from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I peered at you from my bedroom unnoticed. There you two were: Enjoying time together in a manner that you chose for the sole purpose of being together. After you read to her, Mary Ellen (who has a tendency to worry about all things) was uncommonly calm at bedtime. She worships the ground her big sister walks on.
Alex, I know that there is a beautiful and sensitive woman in that confused teenage frame. Maybe I just need to be a better father to help you see it. I know other fathers must go through this as well, but I can’t help but think that I am exceptionally poor at trying to help you find your way.
I’ll continue to pray about it, and pray often.