Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Dad Has Finally Arrived

I have finally reached the pinnacle of parenthood. In the last six weeks, both of my teenage daughters have said they hate me! One said she wished I weren’t her dad. The other said she’d never call me “dad” again. I could never, even in my wildest dreams, have hoped for such complete success.

What complicates matters in our household is that the two girls came from my wife’s first marriage, and the boy came from mine. Even though their father has been largely absent from their lives, it has been difficult for me to feel completely comfortable in the role of dad to the girls. A part of that discomfort comes from the fact that I am male and they are young women. They were already in middle elementary school when my wife and I married, and I have always been concerned about how to behave appropriately with them.

Another factor is that I don’t feel quite as fatherly toward them as I do toward my son. I eagerly anticipated his arrival, and I have been with him since the moment of his birth. I did willingly accept the role of step-dad, provider and protector of the girls when I married their mother--and I have tried very hard to do right by them--but there is still something that doesn’t feel the same. Should I feel guilty about that? I don’t know. My wife claims to love my son as if he were her own, and maybe she does. But when she becomes threatened and fearful, my admission to her about my difficulty in feeling that closeness with the girls becomes a weapon she turns on me.

Finally, there is the fact that these girls are teenagers. The relationship with parents is supposed to be difficult at that age. Their mother has felt it even more keenly than I have. The girls seem to hate everyone--especially each other. In the last year, I have probably not heard more than one polite sentence exchanged between them. The older daughter speaks to the younger as if she were garbage, and the younger is constantly whining at and provoking her older sister. It makes our home a place of true joy.

Right now, I don’t really want to be a dad. I just want to hide my head in the sand until they are all 21. Maybe 30.

And just think: my son becomes a teen next year!


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