Michael Collins: The joys of raising a teen

Mar. 10, 2014 @ 08:38 AM

For those of you that currently have or have had in the past a teenage child, you understand as well as I that raising a teenager is not dissimilar to spending seven years in purgatory. 

I am only a little over a year in with my oldest as we celebrated her 14th birthday a few weeks ago. As the father of this beautiful, bright and intelligent girl, I am learning everyday.  The things I have learned and continue to learn are expansive. 

For example, I now know what LOL, IDK and SMH mean.

I am also now fully aware that “Hey, daddy?” Said in the most sweet tone with a mild pitch increase in the last syllable is directly translated in teenage speak as “You may cater to my every whim now.”  

I have also learned that contrary to my absolute disdain for expensive, trendy coffees, teenagers influence one another and mine has succumbed to the cult belief that the latest mocha, chocolate, latte, frappé, with caramel on top is well worth my first hour and a half of work each week. 

I have also, regrettably, been humbled into recognizing that massively awesome, old-school video game skills do not equate to domineering success over one’s relatively inexperienced teenager on the Xbox. Her repetitive victories have convinced her that when it comes to video games, I am only worthy to buy her batteries so as to ensure that gameplay is not interrupted by such trivial things as a powerless controller.  One day, I will dust off the Sega Genesis and put on a clinic for her. 

Until that day comes, the battery isle and I will continue our long standing relationship.  As much money as I have spent on batteries, It remains a mystery to me that we can land a robot on Mars but we can’t make a AA battery that will last for more than eight hours. I’m not much on conspiracy theories but I suspect there may be some evil corporate, revenue maximizing scheme involved. Now, before you dismiss me as some 9-11 truther wannabe, ask yourself this question: When’s the last time you heard someone at NASA  say,”Houston, the batteries in the Mars Rover are dead again. Can you swing by the dollar store on your way home?”  

Another lesson learned in raising my daughter is that I have finally recognized that many of the challenges I face are my own creation. I understand fully that communication is a critical part of her development into a young woman, and I work hard to keep the lines open between us.  One would be hard pressed to believe that based on my recent goof.

For her birthday, I gave her the long desired, “noise reduction” headphones. As a result, our communication the last three weeks has been composed primarily of me raising my voice to attract her attention only to get no response.  I follow this fruitless effort up by tapping her on the shoulder or waving my hands in front of her face to finally get a response of her lifting the headphones away from her ears and offering an apology while pointing to the ear piece, “Sorry, dad, it’s my noise reduction headphones.”

Unfortunately, that has become a rather standard response bordering on abuse.

Me: “Didn’t I ask you to clean your room?”

Her: ”I didn’t hear you. Its the noise reduction headphones, dad.”

Me: “I thought I asked you to put those dishes away.”

Her: “Noise reduction headphones, dad.”

Me: ”Has the dog been fed?”

Her: “Noise Reduction.”

I’m not sure but I may be getting snookered with this whole noise reduction thing.

Even with all of the challenges though, I embrace my role as her father and try my best to savor every moment.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of taking her to work with me. She volunteered to spend the day helping those less fortunate than her. Seeing a glimpse of the woman she is becoming makes my heart smile. 

While driving home that night, she pulled off her headphones and looked at me.

“Hey, daddy?” 

I noted the slight inflection in the last syllable.

“Yes, sweetheart,” I responded preparing myself for another obscenely overpriced coffee request.

“Could we stop and get some batteries before we get home?”

“Man!  Is the Xbox controller dead again?”

“No,” she replied. “I just figured out today that for the noise reduction to work, it takes a AA battery. Can we pick one up so I can filter out all of this noise?”

See what I mean?  Purgatory.