Archive for the ‘Bad Parenting Moments’ Category

I’m parked outside my daughter’s school at 8 am.

Alani is in the back seat, struggling to gather up all her equipment for pajama day:  bulging backpack, giant king-sized cotton sleeping bag, her lunch.  She’s trying to get out the car door carrying all this and the Dunkin Donuts Jamoca shake she’s having for breakfast.

“Dad,” Alani says, “Can you help me carry this stuff in?”

“Nope,” I say. 

I sip from my cup of Starbucks dark roast.

“Dad, seriously, I need help.”

“Make two trips.”

“C’mon, Dad.  Please?”

“You know my rule.”

I have one cup of coffee a day, in the morning.  I like to savor it.  I won’t interrupt it to do anything for anyone.

Alani, exasperated, climbs out of the car, hauling her load with her.  She sets off across the frozen field for the side door to the school.  It’s about sixty yards away.  I can see she’s having trouble gripping everything.

I sip my coffee.  It’s delicious.


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Two weeks ago my daughter asked if I wanted to chaperone a sleepover event at the school.  It was a fundraiser.  She called it a “lock-in.”  I told her yeah, I’d chaperone.

We were driving to Louies for dinner before her theater practice.

“You wouldn’t be all, ‘strict dad’ would you?” she asked as we turned onto Mack.

I considered.  “No.  I’d just be ‘safety dad'” I said.  For example, I explained, I wouldn’t want kids wandering off into remote areas of the school without supervision.  Even eighth graders.

Alani mulled this over.  As we slid into a booth at Louie’s, she thanked me for my interest in chaperoning, but told me she’d decided to go in a different direction.


No, I told her, I’d chaperone the lock-in. 

Alani shook her head.  She told me she’d already talked to Teacher Kristen, who was coordinating the event, about whether I should chaperone.  Teacher Kristen, Alani reported now, had asked if Alani would be “comfortable” with me chaperoning.  Alani expressed some misgivings, and Teacher Kristen (according to Alani), assured my daughter that if she wasn’t “comfortable”, then I would not be invited to chaperone.

What?   Alani wasn’t asking me if I was going to chaperone.  She was interviewing me for the job, and I’d failed the interview.

I was steamed.  Since when do a teacher and an 13-year-old decide who should chaperone a school event?  Isn’t that something the teacher and the parents decide?

I told Alani that, guess what?  I was CHAPERONING.  I told her I’d have a TALK with Teacher Kristen.  I think I waved my fork in the air as I made these pronouncements.

Alani retreated into stony silence for the remainder of the meal.  So did I. 

I realized later that I’m playing a weak hand.  Yes, I can still wield the authority that goes with the title of “Dad” a little while longer.  But increasingly, my daughter will develop relationships with other adults – high school teachers, guidance counselors, the director of her theater group.  My influence will wane if it’s  based on a raw assertion of my authority as King Dad.

I understand Alani’s concerns about my presence in the midst of her social life. I can be intrusive.  When I picked her up at school, I used to do something I called the “Let’s Go Dance” if she was dawdling with her friends.  It was a dance medley so hideously embarassing to her that she would be out the door within seconds when I performed it in front of her classmates.

This past weekend I accompanied her class on a different event – a field trip to a Quaker meetinghouse in Ann Arbor. I was on my best behavior.   

“You won’t even know I’m there,” I assured Alani. 

I did good. I was quiet and inobtrusive.  Except for that one part, where I thought it would be funny to hoist Alani over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, in full view of her friends, and carry her, kicking wildly, out of the room.  That maybe was a mistake.

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I watched a slasher movie with Alani Friday night.  Psycho Killer Sweet Sixteen Party, or something like that.  Not my best parenting moment. 

Alani lay awake afterward, scared in her bed, till 4:15 a.m. 

I’m vigilant in shielding Alani from inappropriate t.v. sex scenes.  Graphic depictions of decapitated teenagers, not so much.

In my defense, I thought at first that it was a spoof of a slasher movie, not the real thing.  By the time the killer bashed in a teenage girl’s head with a fire extinguisher in a  bathroom stall, though, I knew better.  But by then I was hooked (how cool was that, when the blood sprayed all over the tile wall?), and Alani didn’t want me to turn it off. 

We devised a system: she covered her eyes whenever an onscreen teenager wandered away from the roller skating party and the music turned ominous.  This technique worked until the psycho killer (one of the girls’ dads, by the way) launched an axe attack on one of the teenage girls without any advance warning. 

Alani didn’t have time to hide her eyes.  She saw the girl’s severed head thunk on the floor and her headless body, still on roller skates and spurting blood from where her head used to be, roll into the birthday party.  I scrambled for the clicker, but it was too late. 

At two a.m. that night Alani woke me, standing next to our bed in the darkness and poking my arm.  “Dad!” she whispered.  “I can’t sleep!”

She ‘d been laying in bed  re-playing that head-thunk scene in her head again . .  . and again . . . and again.   

I walked her back to her own bedroom.  Alani got under the covers.    I kissed her on the forehead, told her, “Don’t think about it,”  and went back to my own bed.  I thought this tuck-in set things right until the next day, when I went in to wake Alani and found her bedroom lights blazing.  She told me she’d laid in bed, wide awake, for another two hours after I left her at two am. 

 “Dad? ” she said, “you suck at comforting.”

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