A Confused Parent

I wonder if it’s as confusing being a 12-year-old as it is to be a 12-year-old’s parent. On my part I’m not always sure who or what I am to her. I’m positive I don’t hold the same place in her life that I used to but as soon as I think that I’ll do something silly and find out how devastating my inappropriate reaction to her can be.

At times it feels I can’t do the right thing. If I ignore her too much I’ll know about it soon enough. If I pay too much attention, she shoos me away. I suppose she’s looking for freedom, well, safe freedom. “Let me do what I want but make sure you are there if I need you.”

One day a week we are together downtown for the evening. It’s always enjoyable as we walk and talk about the day. Dinner is in a local food court. After she eats she may visit a shop while I finish my meal. If the shop she is visiting is behind me, after she leaves the table I will change seats to keep the shop within eye site. Undoubtedly upon returning she makes a comment on my new sitting position. Of course I reply with some made-up reason such as, “It is quieter sitting in this direction.” I’m sure she knows this is a bit silly and I think she in some way appreciates my true intent even though she may express exasperation at my silliness.

While I may not always know where I fit in her life at any given a moment I do cherish that our relationship seems better than concerns I hear from other parents. One mother asked me, “Does she still enjoy being with you and is she still talking to you?” A moment of hesitation met the question because this is a scenario that had not entered my consciousness and in no way reflects our reality. Maybe that is a reality for a future not far from now but I prefer to keep that possibility out of my relationship scenario-bank.

We are entering a stage in her life that everyone seemed to warn of. I remember talking to parents of older girls and noting to myself that, “I’ll stick with seven-year-old girl problems.” The seven-year-old girl problems are gone now and so far we’ve been lucky with the pre-teen problems. There have been more discussions about changes with behavior, social discussions, and more privileges permitted friends. Many wants have gone unanswered although we are by no means making her live a 19th century life. (Maybe that’s too far back, let’s say she is by no means leading a 20th century life.) Her world includes Wii, an iPod Touch and Netflix but, unlike “most” friends, no full-out phone. She is smart and has figured out that an iPod with Wi-Fi access is a phone but this doesn’t quite meet her socially influenced expectations — being tethered to a wireless connection. (Our evenings do often include a little time sitting outside the Apple store borrowing their wireless access.)

Of course we worry about excessive exposure to an electronic life and set boundaries but I’m not sure it is worse than the excessive exposure to Gilligan’s Island, Batman and goofy sitcoms that we grew up with. When the favorite show is material like the new Dr. Who I think we’re doing okay. When a girl, who ironically thinks of her dad as a nerd, wants to leave a party to enjoy a Dr. Who marathon — a nerd-fest of major proportion — one can only smile and be pleased.