Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Challenges Of Being A Responsible Father

My first wife and I raised 3 children – all girls who are now fully grown and have families of their own. I was very idealistic as a young father. I firmly believed in a tough love approach to handling problems the girls encountered along the way. Our oldest girl, Kim, was pretty savvy in the way she handled her relationship with her parents. She seemed to know how much to tell us and not. Her sister, Pam, the middle child, always seemed to be telling us more than she should which resulted in us working much harder to stay ahead of her escapades. The 3rd girl, Karen, didn’t seem to worry much about what we thought about her activities. From what I hear this is pretty typical of a family with 3 children.

One of the areas that we watched carefully was the choice of friends that I daughters hung around with. The other was the type of music they listened to. Everything was great as they progressed from infancy into the preteen age. All 3 were intelligent – how could they not be with the genes they inherited from their parents? They seemed to socialize well and interacted well with other children and adults. Very respectful and well behaved in public settings.

Then came the teen years! Day to day life changed for our family much like it does for most. Our first born seemed to know how to handle her heightened hormonal levels – picked great companions, excelled in academics everything progressed smoothly. The story for our middle girl was another matter. Don’t get me wrong – she wasn’t a bad kid – she just got into more trouble than her older sister and, without exception, always got caught. She used to often say that if she did something wrong that I somehow would find out about it and she would get grounded.

She spent ¾’s or her teen years grounded! For example – At fourteen she was “madly in love” with boy 3 years older than her. We thought that was not a good idea and forbid her to see this boy at home. Well you can guess how well that worked. She figured out many ways of making contact with him as close to home as possible. He was determined to see her whether we allowed it or not! One of our neighbors who also had teen daughters informed us that our middle daughter’s boyfriend was climbing the tree in front of the house and sitting outside her bedroom window to smoke and talk with her through the screen.

I thought to myself “How dare she and he defy our rule that Pam could not see this boy”. I announced at dinner one night that I would be leaving for a meeting at church around 8 PM or so. Around that time I got our baseball bat out of the closet and hid in the backyard waiting for Pam’s true love to climb the tree at the front porch. About 8:45 or so I felt sure that he was a no show but decided to wait a little longer since her quiet time before lights out began at 8:15. Sure enough he arrived around 9 PM and climbed the tree. I snuck around to the front underneath his only escape route. I listened for a minute or so to the chatter going on from the roof outside her window. I then called out that the jig was up and that I was coming up the tree for a little talk. About halfway up he sped past me knocking me to the ground atop my bat knocking all the air out of my lungs. Great plan but poor execution!

The boy wisely cut off his visits to the front porch and I began creating alternative plans if some other suitor came calling. Their mother suggested that there was a better way to handle the situation and that was for me to simply tell our daughter how neat her boyfriend was that she brought to meet us. Do that and we'll not see him again.

“What? Are you nuts?” I exclaimed! She convinced me to give it a try. Pam brought her new beau home to meet us. He had a leather vest on but no shirt and razor blade earrings and a stud in his tongue. I was cordial with him with him. Pam suspected that I must not have looked closely at him when he came in. After he left Pam asked what I thought about him. “He seemed like a pretty neat kid” was all I could manage to come out of my mouth. Much to my surprise – that kid never entered our house again. My wife was right! Much easier than physical confrontation!

Live and learn! Later this week I’ll share how to handle a runaway kid. You’ll enjoy it! One of my better moments as a stern disciplinarian 

Have a great Tuesday!

Ralph Taylor
Blogging for Ed Winkle who is on vacation in middle Europe.

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