Mark Mayer calls them "the hard times," the weeks and months when his teenage daughter would simply disappear for days on end.
Mayer has spent most of his adult life entertaining kids as a toy designer for Mattel. But raising them was an entirely different matter as he found out when his three daughters came to live with him in a two-bedroom apartment in Woodland Hills after his divorce.
The eldest, Lacey, and the youngest, Sadie, were joys. But the middle child? Well, she was a handful.
"I probably put him through hell," Mikaela Mayer says. "This was my rebelling stage. We fought a lot."
Six years later Mayer is still fighting, only now, at 21, she is among the favorites to earn a spot on the first U.S. Olympic boxing team for women. And her father, once her most intractable opponent, is in her corner.
"You forgive and forget," Mark Mayer says. "I always just tried to be there and hoped that that would all go away. And in time it did."
So much so that the puncher and the parent scheduled a holiday getaway to Big Bear for some skiing, some snowboarding and a lot of bonding.
"Honestly everything that I've done, every phase that I've gone through — whether good or bad — has brought me to where I am today," Mikaela says. "The way he let me live my life and make my mistakes really helped me form who I am."
Mark Mayer, a stocky, barrel-chested man with a neat beard and a pair of hoop earrings in his left ear, grew up on the west end of the San Fernando Valley, where he excelled in most sports but dominated none.
And like most fathers, Mayer, 51, always felt his daughters were destined for big things. Yet even that faith couldn't prepare him for how precocious Mikaela would prove to be.
In grade school she was already wrecking dirt bikes in the desert. Her dad took her surfing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter.
At 14, without having taken a formal music lesson, she was playing bass guitar on a national tour with Lia-Fail, an all-girl rock band.
"I thought this is cool. She's going to be a famous musician," Mark says. "But then she dropped it and never picked it up again."
She did pick up a boyfriend, though, and that quickly drove a wedge between her and her father.
"Young people kind of get wrapped up in relationships and I really got wrapped up in my relationship," she says. "To a point where I wouldn't come home for weeks at a time. I was ditching school every day."
Mark Mayer blames himself.