Education Matters: Cycles of angst, affection

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

As any parent of a teenager will tell you, adolescence, with all of its uncertainty and insecurity and growing feelings of independence, is a major departure from all the years before it.

How well I remember conversations with my wife when our two girls were about 10 and 8 years old and we both wondered how on earth we would ever be able to stand it when they would one day leave us.

Not too many years later, after having weathered their teen years, the answer came to us clearly, unequivocally and somewhat painfully. I came to the conclusion that in those trying years, there was a higher purpose or divine plan, if you will, that helped prepare parents for that inevitable separation from their children.

I can't say for sure when exactly it happened that my little girls were no longer the open books that they once were. I don't know when it was that I ceased to be the strongest, the smartest and all the other superlatives that came with the territory of fatherhood, especially when it comes to daughters.

Friday nights used to be something we called, "family night," and we were all, to quote Forrest Gump, "like peas and carrots" together. It was a glorious time when the four of us did everything together and were supremely happy to be with the people we most wanted to be with.

At the age of 12 or 13, however, things began to change.

There appeared subtle signs that new pages were turning in the story of our family and a new dynamic was emerging. The old routines were breaking up, Mom's and Dad's jokes were less funny, their music was not so cool anymore, their sound advice was less welcome and family rituals were becoming "old school," as my girls liked to put it. A little thing called peer pressure had crept into our lives and began to unravel our tight-knit togetherness.

As much as we had been warned about the teen years, we imagined that we might be spared the trials and tribulations.

I do recall that same separation with my own parents so many years ago, when I did not want to be seen in certain places (like Bob's Big Boy restaurant) with them and we just weren't clicking the way we used to. One episode in particular has stuck in my memory as a painful reminder of the old saw, "What goes around comes around."

I was 14 and playing on a Babe Ruth baseball team and my dad came to see me play as he had been doing for the 10 previous years, never missing a game. It was between innings and he had come over to the bench to offer a quick commentary on the game and I remember very clearly thinking that I didn't want him to be there.

I was wishing he would go away because I was talking and goofing around with the guys and I didn't see any other fathers coming over. And so, I ignored him. It was the first time ever that I had done that, and it would be the last. He never came to another game of mine.

Years later I was complaining to my father about how easily embarrassed my teenage daughters were when their dad did something un-cool in the presence of their friends. He didn't say anything, but a broad, knowing smile came across his face that, at the time I took no particular note of. It dawned on me later that he was very likely revisiting a certain baseball game in his mind and that a certain satisfaction accompanied that smile.

Not every teenager goes through this dislocation, but enough do that parents of young children would do well to brace themselves for the possibility. At the same time there is comfort in knowing that if a rupture does occur, it will not be permanent.

Today, my daughters and I look back and have a good laugh at those difficult years and now that they have babies of their own, my laugh comes with a certain knowing smile. In looking into the eyes of my grandchildren, I think I can detect a hint of early mischief that will very likely come to full fruition in a dozen years or so.

I want to be around when that happens.

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