When you first have daughters, there are plenty of people who offer advice on caring for them as babies and toddlers. They will give you suggestions on dealing with girls as they enter elementary school and on up through about the junior high age. But then I noticed that the advice seems to mysteriously stop once they reach the age of twelve or thirteen. In fact, the subject of dealing with teenage girls seems almost to be viewed as “The words of which we shall not speak”.
I was oblivious to all of this as my daughters were growing. . . . . until one day when my ten and twelve year olds decided to join a local softball team.
I was excited that they had both wanted to play a sport, but neither girl had ever played before. The next day after work I purchased a ball, bat and gloves, and then wasted no time in organizing an impromptu practice that very evening.
At the end of our practice session, I said in my coach-like voice, “That was good girls. With a little more practice, I think you will both make fine softball players!”
Hannah threw her glove on the ground and stomped into the house crying loudly. Natalie stood silently looking at me with large tear-filled, puppy dog eyes for a moment, and then followed suit. Puzzled, I picked up the pile of gloves, balls and bat, and put them in the shed.
Upon entering the house, my wife confronted me, “Why would you say that to them? They are just learning to play.”
“SAY WHAT?” I plead, “I told them they did very well and that they would make good players with a little more practice!”
My wife gave me a look of skepticism, “Natalie said that you told them that they were the worst players EVER, and that they needed A LOT of practice if they didn’t want to get kicked off the team. Hannah says you made fun of them and she is never going to play again.”
Such was my introduction to the mind of a teenage daughter and how it works.
Their ears do not work like normal human ears. Words that were clearly said do not register in their brains, and words that were never said seem to appear magically in their memory.
If I say something like, “Clean your room or there will be consequences”, what will be heard is, “Dad said that if I don’t clean my room he will punch us in the head and throw all of our stuff out into the street to live in boxes and eat garbage!”
Their eyes don’t seem to work well either. One day at the mall I noticed both girls were giggling and pointing in the direction of large group of teens that had gathered in the central part of the mall near the large water fountain.
“What on earth are you two giggling about?”
“Nothing!” Hannah answered quickly.
“Well you guys are laughing about something,” I pressed.
“Hannah thinks that boy is dreamy,” Natalie offered with a giggle.
“What boy?” I asked curiously.
Hannah blushed and remained silent.
“Which boy?” I asked curiously.
“That one,” Natalie answered and pointed towards one of the boys in the group.
The boy that Natalie seemed to be pointing at was a skinny, slouching teen with his pants sagging almost down to his knees and a piercing on his lower lip. His hair was shaved on one side of his head, and very long and dyed purple on the other side. Surely Natalie was pointing at the wrong kid.
“That boy?” I asked, pointing at the odd looking punk.
“Yep.” Natalie confirmed.
I looked at Hannah, who blushed and turned away.
“Are you talking about that boy right there?” I asked again, only this time I stood behind Natalie and pointed with my arm reached over her shoulder like a gun ready to fire at the ridiculous looking teen.
“Yeah, that one,” she answered again.
There had to be a mistake. How could my daughter find something “dreamy” about this odd blend of Gothic and upper-middle class gangster? What was wrong with her vision?
Still not convinced I was looking at the right kid, I walked over to the middle of the group of boys and grabbed ahold of his oversized coat.
“THIS ONE RIGHT HERE?” I yelled across the concourse while pointing right at the head of the confused boy, causing all the other boys to take several steps back in fear.
Both girls looked mortified and quickly turned and began walking away as if to hide the fact that I was talking to them. This confirmed that I indeed was holding on to the correct teenager.
What was wrong with her eyes? How could she find this kid to be “dreamy”? Especially in light of the fact that there was another teen standing in the same group with normal hair and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt on! What was wrong with HIM?
So now, I am dealing with girls whose ears and eyes both don’t function within the same realm as the rest of us . . . . . But it doesn’t stop there!
Their voices are stuck in a permanent sarcastic “why would you even ask me that – you should already know the answer” tone, with eye rolls thrown in for punctuation.
Their decision making skills are non-existent. The hundred and twenty dollar pair of shoes that they spent four hours picking out and another two hours of negotiating with mom about, are on the floor of their closet the next day with the tag still on them . . . . never to be worn.
Their memories are useless. If they ask if they can spend the weekend with friends camping and you answer “Maybe”, their memory will replace the “Maybe” with a “YOU PROMISED I COULD” when you decide that it might not be a good idea.
I now understand why the wellspring of parenting advice seems to abruptly dry up when it comes to teenage girls. You can’t advise someone on the nonsensical. You can’t apply logic to a person whose eyes, ears and brain are functioning in another dimension. The best advice I can offer is to do your best to adapt and overcome each individual incident as best you can! Don’t question judgment that isn’t really there.
Just remember that they are only teens for eight years. Look towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
At the very least, you know that someday a slouching skinny punk with his pants falling down will end up marrying her . . . at which point, her defective eyes, ears and brain become HIS problem.