Have you ever aggressively demanded that someone say “good morning” to you? Not requested or insinuated, but looked them in the eye and shouted, “Hey! Say good morning to me!”
If not, you probably don’t have a twelve-year-old. Because I have one. She lives in my house and I did that this morning.
My preteen daughter isn’t moody all the time, but she’s moody a portion of the time and you never know when that portion will be. There’s no schedule. She doesn’t have a Google calendar of attitude or a color-coded whiteboard of irritation. It doesn’t even follow a monthly pattern, as some might assume. No. Some moments she’s my little princess. Other moments she’s the evil queen. Sometimes the moments occur within seconds of each other.
So, this morning, when I pushed her door open to find her laying in bed with her phone in her hand, I assumed I caught her at a good time. After all, she just woke up. She can’t be pissy yet, right? What is there to be pissy about? Did she have to take care of her non-verbal son at 4 in the morning when he began throwing large toys out of his room to the hardwood hallway floor? No. That was me. I did that and I’m still pretty pleasant, if I do say so myself. If I can smile with my grogginess and achy middle-aged body, she is probably on cloud nine.
I should have known as soon as the door swung open. She glared at me with a hard look you give a stranger before swinging on them at five cent beer night. Still, I didn’t take the hint.
Hey there. Good morning.
To this, she responded as you might expect…if you were a serial killer.
It wasn’t a “what” that says she didn’t hear me. It was a “what” that deleted the words “the hell do you want”. A little voice in my head told me to elbow drop her, but I didn’t. Instead, I went full Dad mode and gave an equally angry stare.
Hey! Say good morning!
She looked shocked that I had noticed how rude she was. In a voice that implied she didn’t understand my anger she offered a confused, “Good morning.” I shook my head.
We have to work on that attitude.
To further accentuate my point, she made an annoyed face.
And don’t make a face!
I didn’t. I didn’t make a face.
With that, I left the room to wonder when this phase will come to an end.
Everyone says it will. They promise. They tell stories about when they were twelve and how their parents say they were terrors too. Now they’re perfectly normal adults. I get it. I understand. I hope and pray that I get to be that parent one day too, laughing at Thanksgiving about how Olivia tormented me with her Mean Girls attitude. I just wonder if I can make it that long.
It’s a funny thing about having a twelve-year-old. I can remember when she was three yesterday. One time, I brought her with me to the barber and, seeing her skip around in her tu-tu, he asked, through his thick Russian accent, how old she was.
He then said a sentence that I remember to this day.
Oh. That’s a fun age.
And it was. I knew it at the time too. She was just starting to speak and loved learning about life from her Dad. I taught her everything I could think of and she soaked it up like a sponge. We played games and went on adventures. Three was a fun age.
No one says that about twelve. You know what they say when they hear I have a twelve-year-old? Nothing. They put their hand on my shoulder and shake their heads back and forth. Sometimes they might offer some words of encouragement. Keep on keeping on, Daddy. You’ll make it through this.
Remember, it’s not that way all the time and, if asked, I would tell them the same thing I tell Olivia when we have good morning battles. She’s a great kid. Even when her attitude gets pointed, I remember that. I explained that it was the reason why I push back during those moments. It was one of the few things I’ve told her these last few months that she really seemed to listen to.
If you were a bad kid, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’d just be like, “She’s a bad kid. We need to do something about her.” But you’re not. You’re a good kid. That’s why I point out when you have a bad attitude. You can’t be like that or else people will get the wrong idea about you. You need to make sure that doesn’t become who you are all the time.
She nodded. She listened. She got it. That’s because she knows it to be true. I do too. We still have our time together and we still have a bond that, in my heart, I know is unbreakable. It just gets tested now more than it ever did before. But, honestly, that’s fine.
It’s fine because I know that what we have can survive tense times. I have faith in what we have built together. Even though it would mortify her to know I put this into writing, I know she loves me and I love her with every ounce of my being. I would jump off a million bridges to spare her a moment of pain. That goes without saying now and always.
I joke about surviving this, but I know I will. One day, we’ll laugh at Thanksgiving and share past stories as funny anecdotes. Maybe we’ll even meet for coffee where she can greet me with a smile and a cheerful, “Good morning!”
And I can respond with, “WHAT?!”