Parent Wars: My Daughter Strikes Back

A long time ago… 

before the notion of becoming a father came into play, I always told myself that I would be this way and I won’t be that way, I would never yadda, yadda do this to him or her, I would never use those words! Fast forward and I am a father of a soon-to-be five-year-old – GULP!

These days, my life is ruled by my daughter. Before her, my wife ran things, but as the saying goes, there’s a new sheriff in town! Still, it was an “authoritative” presence that I enjoyed as it was just all too cute and I was (still am) at her mercy. Then, just like that, she grew up! She has sass and pizzazz, attitude and independence and talk-back for days! I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t drive me up the wall. Sometimes I feel that she could just give two shits about myself and my wife. I know that it’s just me being emotional when it comes to her (or is it?), but sometimes I just can’t help but feel that way.

A few months ago, my girl started Pre-K. There was a multitude of emotions swirling within that included excitement, happiness and anxiety but, mostly, it scared that crap out of me! With the way I was feeling, I can only imagine how she was feeling. I can vaguely remember what it felt like on my first day of school but watching my daughter face her new experience brought a lot of those feelings back from my youth in the 80s and I think I am safe in saying that she too is still scared.

What was she feeling? I asked her, and for the most part, all seemed well. My wife and I, however, were emotional wrecks. All was good for the first few weeks until we went on a small family getaway to Vermont a few weeks ago. This was when things took a turn. After an extended weekend away from school, having fun with her parents and enjoying her time away from New York and the mundane, my daughter was NOT ready to go back to school! It was like starting all over again but, this time, with a vengeance! Since our return to the reality that is life, the first words (and I do mean very first words) that my daughter utters in the morning when we wakes her up is:

“I don’t want to go to school!”

To which I reply, “I know, it’s Sunday!”

She wakes up with that dreaded statement followed by a stream of tears. You would think that the drama that ensued to get her ready would wake us up even more. No, it’s actually quite vexing especially when it just comes out of nowhere and we have to drop her off then make it to work on time. My wife has an hour commute to work and having that long of a drive makes her think of the morning drama. Oftentimes, it would make her feel guilty. Of course, we both know that we did nothing wrong but the tears pouring down my daughter’s face told another tale. Here we are thinking that all was well, that we did a good job up to this point and prepared her for school and the world just beyond the safe confines of our home then, BAM! Our mornings have been, for lack of a better word, hell!

What the hell happened?! It’s been about three weeks or so since our getaway, and still, there are no signs of her letting up and it is quite tiresome and stressful. Walking away from my daughter as she cries and pleas for us to stay with her sets the tone for the rest of the day for me and it’s quite the damper. Then, everything is repeated the next day, then the following, etc, etc. Madness I tell ya, madness! On a good note, she is usually a ray of sunshine when picked up from school albeit slightly cranky,  but nonetheless not miserable throughout her day in school.

We’re currently trying a few things, one of which is a reward board. Every time she does one of the things on the board (brush teeth, pick up toys, share things with others, say thank you, etc.) we put up a magnet that shows she completed said task. It is our hope that she will strive to earn rewards and gets recognition for it. We’re thinking of adding a “Did Not Cry Today” slot on the board.

My wife has spoken to her teacher with the hopes of coming up with a solution but, more likely than not, they are trying to weed out if there are any problems at home that is causing my daughter’s behavior (not that she is acting up or anything). I understand the reasoning behind this as we are also doing the same, trying to understand if there is something going on at the school that’s causing this drastic change. The whole ordeal is taxing and tiring for my wife and I and we just don’t know what to do anymore. And it doesn’t end there.

My daughter now hates me, wants a different father and doesn’t want me in the house anymore. Yep, she wants me to move out. This is all said amidst a tantrum of all tantrums! It makes my head spin – I don’t know whether to be angry or speak delicately to her with the hopes of getting through to her. I will tell you that neither “method” seems to work. I even placed a crucifix on my daughter’s forehead and asked her to grab ahold of one. You know, just in case. This is what I call desperate for a solution. She just does not seem to give a damn! Make no mistake, I’m not the sole beneficiary of her wrath. My wife has also been struggling to try and come up with solutions on what to do and we are both left scratching our heads and praying to the gods for help.

Are we just being bad parents or do we need Dr. Phil to step in and do his “magic” (I kid, of course). Horse tranquilizers? What’s worse is that this whole ordeal as of late makes me question myself and whether or not I’m being both a good father and husband. I found myself staring out the window the other morning in deep thought, thinking, and concluded that I just feel so lost. I don’t want to blame my daughter as she knows not what she does but, still, I find myself blaming her nonetheless and, frankly, it hurts. All this with the Holidays just around the corner! What would Jack Handey do?!

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