Step away from the computer, put down the iPad, close the iPhone (or whatever tech gadget you use to communicate) and take a deep breath. It's advice I tell most people. If an email has made you angry, don't respond right away. Take a walk and several deep breaths. So, I had to follow my own counsel when my wife texted me informing me that my daughter performed miserably on two of her midterms. I immediately texted my daughter to find out if this was true and unfortunately, it was. So, instead of texting her something I would regret, I am instead channeling my frustration and writing this article. At 16, my daughter is the eldest of my two children, my son being 12 and not yet caught up in this phone and text craze.
What do you do with teenagers that are always connected? Who never look up from their phone? I had asked my daughter several times over the course of a few weekends if she was studying. I reminded her constantly "This is junior year and colleges will be looking at your grades... so focus." I received the token "Yes Dad, I understand."
As the oldest of three siblings, I was pushed hard by my father. He pushed me to do well in school. He pushed me to always have a job. I juggled both during my college years. There was a lot of pressure placed upon me always. Why was that? Why me? Especially since he did not place the same pressure on my brother and sister. His intensity waned with the both of them, almost as if he had used all his energy on me. Perhaps he had faith in me or saw my potential and pushed me hard. I don't know why he felt the need to push me so hard, since I was always very focused and driven to begin with.
I have become my father.
But times have changed.
The distractions for a parent are many these days. Technology helps us in our role, but also competes for out attention. Conveying the importance of focus and studying when friends are within reach is a difficult balance for my daughter and at times, I feel as I have lost out. I fear she has lost out. I have tried to explain that her actions today will affect her future, but without little affect. I have tried to tell her that the constant texting, the drama which embroils her, will not mean anything when she's older. In fact, it's highly likely that her so-called friends today will not be her friends after graduating high school.
Look, I was the same, I would roll my eyes (never in front of him, though) whenever my Dad would lecture me. I knew a lecture was coming as it always started oddly the same, "When I was your age I..." It wasn't until I was married and standing on my own where I came to respect what my father did for me and how true his words were. If only I had listened more closely. But I turned out OK; successful, happy. So was it me or him. I think a combination of both.
Unfortunately, by the time we realize the advice our parents gave us was indeed true, and more importantly we value it, we may be already on our individual trajectory, for good or bad (I am hearing Carole King's "Well it's too late baby, yeah it's too late..." ringing in my mind).
Yet I will continue to give advice.
Because I want what's best for my children.
I will continue to push and support them.
Because I want them both to achieve their full potential.
I will continue to be disappointed when they fail.
Because I am their Dad.
Follow Charles J. Alaimo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cja767