One thing I have learned in my 17 years of fatherhood — sometimes it’s best to wait for my daughter to come to me when she is ready, when she has only me to talk to, when it is only me as her audience. She will. I know it. I am her dad.
You know what? When I figured that out, it was the best thing for the both of us. My daughter thinks a lot like me, which means that she has to process things on her own before she is able to talk about a problem or something bad (or good) that has happened to her. If I push her to talk to me, she won’t be able to. And when she is ready, I listen. Alyssa is only 17, but I am proud of the way she thinks through things, obvious to me as she describes how she is feeling. Oh, there is a lot of girl left in her, but there is a lot of woman already there.
Her boyfriend broke up with her tonight. This is the third breakup I have witnessed. Tonight, she walked through the front door, tears in her eyes, and announced that he had just broken up with her. This was not a girl who was torn to pieces, her steely countenance showing to me what I have seen many times, a determined defiance. Alyssa was hurting, but she was not broken.
Miriam hugged her and offered to go up to her room with her. Alyssa refused.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Her lower lip stuck out, eyes buried beneath furrowed brows. she repeated her refusal as her mother tried to insist that Alyssa spend some time with her.
I did something I don’t do often as I watched my two girls, one hurt by the breakup that had happened moments before and the other hurt by the refusal to talk. Tears welled up in my eyes and I let them show, a few rolling down my cheek as I watched.
She will talk to me when she gets a chance. I will tell her that this was going to happen, that this boy never intended this to be permanent, a fact from the start. He was not going to college with a girlfriend, a command issued by his mother, and this boy listens to his mother. I saw it coming, I really did, and we had talked about it a week or so ago. No boy is ready for a serious relationship at his age, at least not many. There will be plenty more boys and one of them will be the one.
Or maybe I will just listen.