I knew having a teenager would be hard, no matter how wonderful a child my wife and I raised. And, I was right.
Riley, who is now seventeen, has immersed herself in her social circle. She has tried to set herself apart from her mom and me by discovering her own identity, which may include different opinions and beliefs from her parents. Her eyes always seem to be on her phone, and she responds to family members with one-word answers, rarely with eye contact. I realize that this is part of the whole “teen years” experience, but I still don’t like it.
I’ve always worked hard to raise my daughters in a way that prepares them to stand on their own when they are finally out of the house. Yet, this stage in Riley’s life is not what I expected. It’s not so much about her being a teen, but rather that this is the stage where she’s starting to pull away and become independent.
It’s this time when she has her own car and stays out later. It’s this part of her life when we are seriously looking at colleges, and realizing that she is really going to be on her own in twelve months. She’ll have to wash her own clothes, go to the bank without our help, make sure her cell phone is paid for, be responsible for getting up on time and meeting her school assignment deadlines.
I’m finding it hard to let her go, and to believe that she’s ready. Yet, I know she’s more prepared than most. She’s doing great in her high school honor’s and college-prep courses. She’s driving great, checks in while she’s out, and comes home when she’s supposed to. She’s got a great group of friends. She probably has a better chance of success than I did when I was her age.
So, why do I feel this way? Maybe it’s because she has always needed her mom and me since the second she entered this world. She needed us to feed her, bathe her, help her to sleep, teach her to speak and walk, explain the rules, teach her new games, read her books, and answer her questions.
Now that she’s on the cusp of what we’ve prepared her for, I think I may have neglected one crucial aspect—I was so busy getting Riley ready to leave the nest that I forgot to prepare myself. I’m not sure how to be a father to her in our new roles, but I’m not worried that I won’t be able to learn.
When she was born seventeen years ago, I had no idea how to be a father to a baby (to anyone for that matter), but I learned as I went. I know this next chapter in our relationship will be written as we go. I am confident that Riley will be fine, will prevail, will succeed as she prepares to take this giant step. And, I know that I will be fine, will prevail, and will succeed as a father of this new young woman. It’s just new, and a little scary (probably for us both). I guess that’s what makes it so fun. It’s what I signed up for when I became a dad.