This week, I dug deep into the Dr. Tim advice column mailbag and came up with the following very informative letter:
Dear Dr. Tim:
My 16-year old daughter now has a boyfriend. Should I kill myself?
Signed, Terrified in Tacoma.
Thank you for your very detailed and well-constructed letter, Terrified. Can I call you “Terri?”
For the rest of you reading this advice column, yes, it’s true: along with my expertise in countless other areas, Dr. Tim here (it’s sort of an honorary title) is also an expert in parenting matters. As the shell-shocked father of not one but two teenage daughters who are both now entering the world of dating, I believe I can shed some insight into Terri’s problem. I may even be able to recommend some effective non-hallucinogenic prescriptions for anxiety, depression and anger management that should become a regular part of any parent’s daily dietary regimen, starting immediately.
First of all, Terri, I can tell that you did not read my previous two-part post about the challenge of parenting teenage daughters. Let me share that you’re about to embark on some very choppy waters. But there is hope. (Actually, there is no hope, but if you keep reading this letter, you’ll find a coupon for 10% off on my new best seller, “Ten Reasons Why You’re a Horrible Parent”.)
First of all, if you’re like most parents of teenagers, you hope and pray this day will never come; that your adorable little angels will grow up continuing to idolize you, wanting only to please you and obey your every command until … oh, say their retirement. Sorry to burst your bubble. Around the age of 12 or 13 (could be sooner or later – your mileage may vary) they start to turn into an alien life form. This is perfectly normal – it simply means that you have completely failed as a parent. Don’t worry. Your child is starting to grow up and is preparing to leave the nest. You will then enter the five well-documented stages of Parental Grieving:
Denial >> Anger >> Bargaining >> Depression >> Giving them your car keys
I have a good friend Ken, who has a daughter named Laura. Let’s call her “Charlotte” to protect her anonymity. He told me nostalgically about when Laura, er, Charlotte, first had a crush on a boy. She wore his sweatshirt to bed and doodled his name on her notebook. It sounded so cute. And then Ken met the boy – and his multiple body piercings. Which brings me to the issue of what boys are after. You might want to sit down, Terri.
News flash: When it comes to dating, teenage boys mainly think about three things: sex, breasts, and … okay, make that two things. Actually, I conducted some field research into what the average teenage boy (ages 15 – 19) does in a typical day. The results may surprise you.
Surprised? So was I when I made up these statistics. 0.5%!!?? I had no idea teenage boys spent so much time paying attention to their parents. By the way, there is no truth to the old urban legend that the average teenage male thinks about sex every thirty seconds. I am convinced it is much more frequent.
So what can you do? Well, you might consider crawling under a large desk and curling up into the fetal position. Let’s face it. You’re screwed. But before you completely throw in the towel, consider barricading your daughter’s bedroom window with titanium alloy-reinforced bars and a security system that goes off when it detects a can of Red Bull or a 12-pack of Trojans within 20 feet. .
And here are some other practical things you can try:
- Install a 24 x 7 video surveillance system with a GPS tracker ankle bracelet that lets you know any time your daughter has left the boundaries of her permitted visitation destinations – perhaps an ankle tracker with a nice pearl inlay. Style is everything at this age.
- Implement drug testing. Invite the young man to pee into a cup the moment he comes to the door to pick up your precious Charlotte for the homecoming dance. Assuming the stick turns blue, there is nothing for him to worry about.
- Implement a reasonable curfew system – preferably one that requires your daughter to be home roughly an hour before the dance begins.
- Insist that you go along on the date. This one is really effective, and it’s a safe bet that this young man won’t be asking your angel out again anytime soon. Be sure to offer to pay for the movie and popcorn. It’s the least you can do as the dad.
In the end, perhaps the most important thing you can do is teach your daughter the power of the word NO. You know – that same word she mastered so well when you asked her to empty the dishwasher, go to bed by 10pm or turn down the volume. Teach her that this very same word can also be used when it comes to boys and sex.
Recently Laur-, er Charlotte had two boys that both wanted to go out with her. One of them is a very nice, polished, well-mannered young man who gets good grades and comes from a very good family and is a member of the high school varsity track team. Let’s call him Harold. The other young man is, as best as we can tell, the spawn of Satan. On his Facebook page he proudly displays photos of his bong collection and a life size nude sculpture he recently did of Brittney Spears, made from 575 crushed beer cans. (I have to give him credit. At least he found a way to recycle the beer cans after he was done consuming their contents). When he is not hitting on girls, he can be found at the motocross track, perfecting his 360 end-over helipop double axel wheelie maneuver with pants that almost cover his butt crack. We’ll call him Demon Seed Boy.
It has taken my friend Ken countless hours of frank conversations about how Harold really cares about Charlotte while D-S Boy only wants her as a conquest. But I am delighted to report that after many patient and loving talks, some firm but compassionate parenting, and the threat that the only car she will be driving until the age of 25 will require tricycle pedals if he ever catches her so much as giving D-S Boy a furtive glance, Ken thinks his daughter finally has seen the light.
So, Terri, should you give your daughter your blessing to date? Of course not. But what are you going to do? To guide your decision, ask yourself three questions: Is she mature enough to know how to say NO? Does she have the judgment to know good boys from bad boys? And how long is the waiting list at the Sisters of the Perpetual Sacred Virgin convent?
If you have your own parenting dilemma you’d like to share, drop me a note or post a comment. I am confident I can help you every bit as much as I have helped Terri.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011