It’s a wonder she could walk upright as she raced down the hall to her bedroom and shut the door with an exclamation point—the chip on her shoulder was that big. If that chip had been visible, one might have mistaken it for a second head that was vying for space. Tom recalls vividly when he and his younger daughter hardly ever saw eye to eye because they seldom looked at each other.
She was probably about 15 years old. Five years before she was a sweet girl who loved to make people laugh. Tom and his wife thought for sure she was going to be the life of the party wherever she went. She liked having fun and being carefree. She was her own person. Tom was delighted that she was independent-minded, had spunk and stood her ground. Those should have been clues.
Invasion of the body snatchers
Tom’s not sure what happened in those intervening years—those years that led up to the family ice age. Gradually, daughter #2 withdrew, became less social and lost her sense of humor. Her independence evolved into remoteness. That spunk gradually turned to defiance. And when she stood her ground, it was with her heels dug in and a look on her face that said, “Shove it!”
There were countless quiet dinners when the only sound was an occasional scraping of silverware or a squeaking chair. It was ironic that the insistence of spending the evening meal together as a family was a source of tremendous irritation and regret.
A stranger in the house
The entire ordeal was a puzzle that was never put together. Tom admits, with some hesitation, that he really didn’t like daughter #2. Oh, he loved her. But he’d cringe when he’d hear her car pull into the driveway. He wished she’d get invited to dinner at a friend’s house. He could actually taste his food when she wasn’t there. He couldn’t wait for her to mumble ‘good-night’ and disappear behind her door until morning.
Daughter #2 is a grown woman now. She and Tom are closer than ever. When she comes home for the holidays, a 10-year-old sweetheart comes bounding through the door again. Occasionally Tom has gingerly asked daughter #2 what it was that caused her to be so distant and brazen for those difficult years. Her self-conscious laugh softens her reply as she gently scolds her dad and says, “Daddy, I have no idea.”
The puzzle may remain in pieces
There may be no reasonable explanation. It just was—and they both survived. Dad, all of this is to assure you that when you find yourself staring through tears at those puzzle pieces in your own family, there may be no rational reason—no figuring it out—no way to fix it—and no one to blame. It just is. And it will pass.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book, “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.