I have a teenage daughter. You know that age. When you become a public quandary for them. They’re not quite sure if and when they want you around. I’m trying to adjust to it. Trying to accept that in her mind I fluctuate between being someone who gives her rides, picks up tabs, and mildly amuses her with my dearth of pop-culture understanding; to someone who can at any moment be a social liability for her and whatever she perceives is her current standing with her peers.
I’m like that comfy old Disney sweatshirt that you love to wear around the house but you know you’re rolling the dice should you choose to wear it on a late night trip for a bag of chips.
I get it.
She doesn’t want to have egg on her face. Sadly, I’m the egg. To her, I’m just old. She can’t see the youthful me inside. The dad who not long ago was her age, with the same insecurities. The dad who wants to be a mature, respectable provider for his family, but who also still has those youthful instincts to play silly games, yell and scream with my buds, and run with the pack.
She’s afraid of me embarrassing her.
I too, have the same fear. Of embarrassing myself. So most times, I just play it cool. Sit on the sidelines, let her be a kid, and secretly miss my own youth. It is safer that way. For both of us.
This summer, her youth group has been engaged in this theme of “Color Wars”. In the promotional videos and flyers, they had all these kids covered with a kaleidoscope of colors. It was very inviting. It screamed of fun! For kids. They had messages and songs centered around the idea of victory, but to top if off they had all kinds of games where they do crazy things and score mega points for their various color teams.
So this week they had the opportunity to earn beaucoup points IF they brought parents to the color war.
She was in such turmoil. Texting and face-booking friends to see if anyone else dared to venture into the realm of having the ‘rents tag along. There was no way she was going to be one of the only kids with a dad tagging-along to the group.
With just minutes remaining before the games began, I could see she was flummoxed. Did she risk the mortification of being the only kid with a ‘rent in tow? Or did she gamble on losing the points for he team that my participation would otherwise bring?
I decided to make it easy for her. I donned the required black jersey (a color that may not disguise the wrinkles we have accrued, but generally hides some of the added poundage), and jumped in the car. I gave her assurance that I would wait in the vehicle, (parked out of sight), while she gauged the situation. I submitted to her bidding. And while waiting in the car, I fought my own demons.
What if she DID want me to join in the folly? My spirit is still young-(ish), but my body long since let go of previous muscle memories. What games were on the docket for the evening? Would they be putting pics on Instagram or Facebook? What would MY friends think?
She waved me in. I was invited to join. Somewhere in my mind I heard the shrill voice from the Hunger Games …”May the odds be ever in your favor” as I trudged to what was sure to be my own social demise.
They gathered the parents, like lambs to the slaughter, and asked for volunteers. I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound”, so I raised my hand. I don’t recall the name of the game that I was tabbed for, but it involved a dozen eggs, eight of which were hard-boiled. The remaining eggs were raw. My opponent, a good-natured young lad, and I were to each grab an egg, and upon notice, smash it on our foreheads. The first person to smash two raw eggs on their forehead was the loser.
All I know is that for those few minutes, my daughter laughed hysterically. Partly with me, and partly at me, but she laughed freely. Free from the worry of embarrassment. And I couldn’t have been happier.
I finished with egg on my face, and down my shirt, but my own heart was free as well. And for a moment or two, young again.