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Parenting Teenage Girls: Spending Time with my Daughter

It was 9:20 p.m.

I had just gotten home a short while ago. There were still office notes to finish and emails to check and answer. But first I grabbed some left over dinner and sat down on the couch in the den near my teenage daughter who was watching TV.

She was unusually quiet. Typically I am faced with endless stories of the friends who have made annoying comments during the day and the teachers who have wronged her. This stream of information can be hard for me to follow. I actually have a tough enough time simply remembering what grade she is in, but I do my best.

Apparently it had been a tough day for her too. She was extremely upset about a teacher interaction (not necessarily the teacher’s fault).  My wife, who unlike me usually knows exactly what to say and keeps track of all the details, had said the wrong thing. (Well it had probably been the right thing to say, but not what my daughter wanted to hear at the time).

She seemed so sad.

It was 9:30 p.m.

I couldn’t get her to talk. I tried direct questions and gentle teasing (well, increasingly less gentle) but barely got one word answers. This was concerning; over the years, I have trained my 15-year-old daughter to trash talk with the best NFL linebackers.

Finally, she asked me to take her to Starbucks. While I try to be the good parent—I rarely say no to her and bring home pop, chips, and candy whenever possible—I was pretty tired and really didn’t feel like going out. Also, the Starbucks request is not an infrequent one. It’s usually undeserved and at an inconvenient time.

But she seemed so sad.

I thought about my little girl who didn’t look so little anymore. While she still seems to like me, she certainly has less time for me than she used to. And she is going to college soon, where there won’t be much time for me at all.

It’s 9:40 p.m.

We sat at Starbucks. I got her to talk a little while we were there.

I even got a smile or two.

Though I knew those grins would fade quickly—as soon as I said something she might not want to hear. I was exhausted and still had work to do, but it was worth it to be with her. I hope I remember that next time.

Dr. Dan Borison, a writer and dad of five, is a doctor in his free time.

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