I had a conversation with someone today that both made me think . . . and realize how lucky I am to have the children I do. Not because they’re little angels, God no, they’re far from that. But if they were I’d probably worry something was terribly wrong with them in the first place.
No . . . the conversation started with “you must just be so happy to have this opportunity to reconnect with your daughter!”
If I’d been the normal human being and not the mutant that I am, I would have politely said “yes, it’s great to spend the summer with Abbi! (My 18-year-old)”. You see, Abbi’s heading to college in the Fall and stayed home to work and make some extra money before heading off to school. Stay home, I mean, because every year my kids go to their grandparents’ house, out of state, for the summer. It’s not summer camp, nor is it a vacation or project or anything like that. It’s a necessity. My kids go there so that, thanks to my parents watching them for two months, I can work and make a living. Otherwise, they’re home alone and I’d worry, constantly, about what’s going on. You might say “oh, but your parents love it and they get to spend time with the kids” and all that, and you’d be right. But at the end of the day, let’s face it, I’m exhausted much of the time and I’m almost half their age. It’s a brilliant and amazing help to me that they do it without complaint.
But the conversation didn’t go that way. No, I didn’t simply agree and leave it at that. I paused, thinking for a second, and then against probable social graces, I said “no, I’m not reconnecting with my daughter at all.”
The fact of the matter is that I didn’t have to reconnect. Not really. Sure, she’s 18, and sure, she’s had some issues with me and the fact we’re growing and moving on from the loss of my wife at different paces, but I expected that. I lost my wife. . . she lost her Mom. That’s a totally different thing.
But the part to remember is that no matter how we might clash or conflict or get in an argument, at the end of the day the reality is that I still and always will enjoy Abbi’s company. The fact she’s going into drama and likely the entertainment industry doesn’t bother me, in fact, it has opened my eyes to thousands of new things I would likely have never experienced. Not that I was opposed to them, but her aggressive thirst for knowledge of acting, directing, filmmaking, scriptwriting, all of it, has opened my eyes to tons of old movie and old shows.
But I’ve exposed her to tons of material as well. Without me she’d never have seen Sherlock or even Downton Abbey. (Yes, sue me male counterparts, but I started watching Downton and brought it to Abbi’s attention. Sue me. It’s well written!)
When great, or silly or amazing things happen, I tell her. When bad things happen I shelter her. It’s not a hard thing to spend time or talk with my daughter, I actually enjoy it. I enjoy it with all 4 kids. The other three, Hannah, Noah and Sam, give me a dissertation on their entire day each night when I call to electronically tuck them in. I hear about how the cotton from the trees outside at my parents’ house has blanketed the ground looking like fluffy, down-like snow in 80-degree temperatures. I absorb all of it.
I gave the person in the above conversation an example just from today. I started watching a show on BBC America called The Hour. Abbi didn’t think she’d care for it at first, thinking that it was the Brits’ way of capitalizing on the Mad Men craze. But five minutes into the show, with the character of Freddie Lyon needling his love interest by calling her “Moneypenny” like James Bond and that same woman, “Bel” not backing down and wanting to be a hard-hitting journalist and she was hooked. I watched season 1 and adored it. Season 2 came out and we watched it every week, thrilling in lines like “but a scandal…a scandal has wings!” The second season ended on a cliffhanger that had Abbi beside herself and dying to know what’s next…when the BBC announced they weren’t doing a Series 3. Abbi was crushed. (Okay, so was I, a little.)
But today, I found out that Peter Capaldi, one of the actors in season 2, told the crowd at the BAFTA awards that he thinks they’re in the process of doing a 1-hour special that would wrap up the story lines.
The first person I thought of was Abbi. So I sent her a text . . . and got the response that “if it’s true it’s the best thing to happen to my life today!!!!!”
Before they said it I made sure to add “she’s not a surrogate wife, by the way, I don’t do those things because I don’t have anyone to tell them to. My wife wouldn’t have cared in the least.” It’s true, too. I didn’t make Abbi become Mom and emotional stabilizer for the family. It was important to me that she be 16, 17, then 18 and not 24 before her age caught up. Sure, she had to mature faster, but her mother had already prodded and poked her that direction before passing away. I tell and do these things with Abbi because, quite frankly, I always have. When Pete Townshend says something amazing about the making of Quadrophenia, I tell my daughter Hannah. When William Joyce says something about a new book coming out I tell Noah, who adores his writing. When Lemony Snickett has something funny to say . . . I pass it along to Sam, who’s reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. All my kids have interests that interest me as well…and I pass them along.
So, no, I’m not reconnecting. Sure, there are adjustments. There are emotional minefields.
At the end of the day, though, it’s all about one thing, and one thing I need to do:
That’s to Talk to Your Daughter.