Monday, January 21, 2013

Coming Up Short To Nikita

My 13-year-old told me matter-of-factly last night that she thinks I’m capable of much more than I’m currently achieving and that I really should start seeking the balance that’s lacking in my life.

Part of me was touched that she cared enough to offer this wisdom – usually she finds my breathing annoying and is guaranteed to roll her eyes at every syllable I utter – and part of me was mildly irritated that I was being judged, harshly, by someone who wasn’t even born until I was well into my 30s.

I was also a little irked because while not the 36th richest man in America like Lord Zuckerberg or internationally idolized like George Clooney (my contemporary), I’m relatively comfortable with where I’m at. It would be nice to not violate bank policy by dropping below the minimum balance every time I withdraw gas money from my checking account, of course, and I’d be lying if I said I have no regrets – but I’m better off than lots of folks, my job is flexible and I’m able to incorporate what I enjoy doing (writing) into my work unlike many cubicle slaves I know.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Nikita noticed the photo propped up on my desk of me shaking hands with the 42nd president of the United States in the White House back in June of 1996. My career has since “evolved” to the point that I’m more likely to win NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series than to be photographed anywhere near the Leader of the Free World.

Another reason for my confused reaction to her evaluation is because our relationship is currently more than a little challenging, thanks in part to normal teenage hormones, mood swings and boundary-pushing. Add to that a pinch of “I’m not her real father” and a dash of “I’ve made some big mistakes” and you can understand why I’m not sure how to respond to her character analysis.

I remember when Nikita was born – I wasn’t there but her mom and I were professional colleagues at that point and I remember the pregnancy – and I even babysat her once when she was still in diapers. So I’ve always felt that she and I go way back and ought to be able to talk about anything. The fact that we can’t talk at all much of the time has caused more than one sleepless night for both of us. It’s too bad, really, because there’s a lot about her that I genuinely like and respect – her self-discipline, confidence and commitment to her academic goals come to mind – and I’d love to be able to devote my limited number of brain cells to life’s other challenges.

I’m sure she’d rather not have to deal with my demands and adapt to my preferences too.

I think I’m going to keep quiet about last night’s appraisal. After all, the conversation was better than most of our recent interactions – no one raised their voice or stormed out of the room – and it’s not like she’s going to be 13 forever.

I guess it’s just that I want her to look up to me, not down at me.

P.S. Do not tell her I blogged about her. I’m sure it would really tick her off.


  1. out of the mouth of babes...

    sounds like you both learn much from one another. thanks again for sharing a tender glimpse.

  2. Hang in there Pat! Having raised a teenage girl, and having been one myself I know that by the time she's 16 or 17 you will be the cool parent....But sadly Mom may be on the receiving end of the slamming doors. The good news is that by the time she is 25 or so, you will both be infinatly wise once again...she'll just be mad at the two of you for withholding that wisdom all these years!

  3. On my second round of raising "kids". I'm a lot less obsessed with the little stuff. Of course the "you're not my 'real' father" wouldn't fly with my wards - In Austin's case, I've overheard him tell people that: "he is my real father, in every way that matters. (Him being and adopted Grandchild get a lot "but do you know your 'real' parents" kinds of questions.) Most people who know us, are aware that Austin is my biological grandson and that Nancy is no "blood" relation at all. So, he rarely has to defend my "fatherhood." On the other hand he will down right rude with well-meaning friends and relatives asking about his "real Mom."

    Joshua has never said that to me...and if he did I would merely ask him if was asking to move back in with his biological father. The man is a nut case and the reason Joshua is living with us (we're his legal guardians).

    I don't how you should answer...I don't know if you have been her father in "every way that really matters" or not. But I'll just say, don't let the biological thing deter you. If you are confident in who you are, she will respect that. I suspect you are reacting less to what she said (smart thirteen year olds are much more astute than most adults give them credit for), than to your own self-doubts.

    Face those doubts head on. Put them to rest. You ARE successful "in every way that matters."

  4. Please forgive my typos in the previous post - I think faster than I type.