As our girls grow older, it is becoming more of a challenge to find the time and opportunity to have meaningful conversations with them. This is especially true with our oldest daughter, and is quickly becoming the reality with our second daughter. Not only are they getting more involved with activities and friends, but also they are getting older–and I am their father.
The gender difference during the preteen and early teen years adds a level of awkwardness to our relationship. They have questions and feelings that I am completely ill-equipped to answer, at least in their eyes. If nothing else, the answers are more comforting coming from Melissa. While I am always willing and available to talk to them, I would be lying if I said I am not relieved at times that Melissa answers some of their questions.
Often fathers struggle to stay connected with their daughters during this transitional time in their lives. The issues of gender and discomfort make them shy away from talking to each other about certain topics. As a result, opportunities to talk to about their dreams, plans, and future are missed. I am currently in this phase of life and I desperately want to maintain a close relationship with my kids. While I enjoy missing some conversations (thanks Melissa) with the girls, I do not want to miss them all. I want to know their dreams so I can encourage them along the way.
I am able to have conversations with the girls at home, but they are often interrupted and seldom deep. I have tried on occasion to spend some one on one time with each of the children. While the discussions may start on meaningful topics, they usually resort back to what we are doing or maybe something strange we have just seen. These conversations are enjoyable, and often cause me to learn a few things by accident, but they do little to keep me in touch with their feelings. They do, however, give me a strong look at their personalities.
One place I have found that allows me to have meaningful conversations with my kids is in the car. When there are only two of us in the car, we can talk uninterrupted. If I ask a couple well-phrased questions, I can usually pull out a worthwhile conversation. I find this method especially effective after church confirmation classes with our oldest daughter. There often has been a thought provoking discussion during class that I can use to start a meaningful dialog. I have some similar times with our second daughter driving her to and from her activities.
Another place I use to connect emotionally with my daughters is the garage. As many of you may have read in the past, I have been working on incorporating my kids into some of the activities that I enjoy, such as woodworking. These projects also create some good time for conversation. Woodworking is often a relatively quiet activity, and while it takes concentration, it does not fully utilize my brain. Sufficient mental power remains to talk about life with the kids. There are typically fewer interruptions during this time too.
By working on finding ways to stay engaged with, and available to, my children, I am able to better understand them. I have even discovered that I am able to get some information out of them that Melissa is not. Sometimes the conflict for alpha female status keeps that communication channel filtered. When Melissa and I combine our pieces of information about our kids, the puzzle of who they are becomes clearer.
It is not always easy to find ways to stay engaged with my kids, but is important for me to see how they are maturing. It also gives me the chance to show them what a well intentioned husband and father looks like. I may not be able to fix all their problems, but ensuring they know they are unconditionally loved and treasured is the next best thing.
How about you? Fathers, how do you stay connected with your daughters? Mothers, how do you talk with your sons?