Conversations with my teenage daughter, a 14-year-old post-millennial, often start with me knocking on her bedroom door. It usually doesn’t get better from there. Until it does.
Me: Hey there.
Me: Can I come in?
Her: Do you need to?
Her: Want to take a minute and think about it first?
And that’s how many conversations with my teenage daughter end … without resolution.
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Her: (No answer.)
Me: I’m coming in, OK?
Her: I’d rather you didn’t.
Me: I don’t want to talk to you through a door.
Her: Really? Because I find it comforting.
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(Opening my door and sticking my head in.)
Me: Hey. I need you to pick up your room, please.
Me: Because it smells weird and we have company coming over later.
Her: Company won’t be coming in my room, will they?
Me: Please just clean up in here.
Her (looking around room): I’m pretty sure it looks fine. Plus, it’s my room. Don’t I get to decide how it should look?
Me: Not when there’s an odor involved.
Her (getting up from bed with a tremendous sigh): You know, this is SO typical. We were talking about it in Government Studies. YOUR generation makes a mess and MY generation has to clean it up.
Me: That’s a really good point. But my generation didn’t leave an old banana under your desk for three days.
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Me: Hey. What’re you up to?
Her: What? Why? Am I in trouble? What did I do now?
Me: You’re not in trouble. I just wanted to see what was happening up here.
Her: I’m actually really busy right now.
Me: You’re lying in bed looking at your laptop.
Her: It just so happens I’m having a really important conversation online. Could you close the door?
Me: In a minute. What’s the really important conversation you’re having?
Her (eye roll): Do you really need to know? I mean, is this information that you need to have in your day?
Me: If you’re talking to a 50-year-old man who’s pretending to be a 14-year-old gamer named Kylie, then yes. Yes, that is information I need to know.
Her: Oh my GOD. Be more paranoid.
Me: So who are you messaging with?
Me: Oh. Hannah from school?
Her: YES, DUH.
Me: How is she?
Her: She’s great, except for the fact that her parents always barge into her room and invade her privacy.
Me: I see. Then I guess you guys have a lot to talk about.
Her: We do. Could you close the door please?
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Me: Hey. What’re you doing?
Her (focused on her laptop screen): Playing Undertale.
Me: No playing video games until after you do your math homework.
Her: Brad says he prefers us to do our homework in class.
Me: Who’s Brad?
Her: My algebra teacher.
Me: He lets you call him Brad?
Her: Yeah. He’s cool. He totally gets the fact that learning is a collaborative process and it’s better if everyone is on a first name basis.
Me: Oh. Well. That is cool. And you’re saying he never gives you actual homework?
Her: He says that if we do math at home, we may not use the right methods that we do in class.
Me: You know, I can probably help you with it if you want. I was pretty good at algebra.
Her: Brad says parents aren’t able to understand the kind of algebra we do.
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Me: Hey, there.
Me: I’m just checking in about your science project.
Her: What about it?
Me: Did you do it yet?
Her: Oh. Yeah. Mostly yeah.
Me: What do you mean “mostly”?
Her: It’s almost completely done.
Me: Great. That’s great to hear. How much is left to do?
Her: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, if we turn your science homework into a pie chart and we divide it up into the portion that’s done, and the portion that’s not done, what would it look like?
Her: You know, Dad, sarcasm isn’t productive.
Me: (Long pause.) Fine. Good point. So, how much of your science project have you done so far? Just walk me through the progress you’ve made.
Her: Welllllllll … I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I chose a topic.
Me: Great. That’s a great way to start. What’s your topic?
Her: Something about the Laws of Motion.
Me: O … K. So, what else have you done?
Her: I picked out the color of my poster board.
Her: And that’s it.
Me: That’s it? Isn’t it due in two days?
Her: You can’t rush scientific discovery, Dad.
Me: You’re right. You can’t. You also can’t let distractions interfere with genius.
Her: Hey, what’re you doing?
Her: What are you doing? That’s my phone.
Me: Don’t mind me. I’m just taking your computer and your phone and your iPad downstairs for a while.
Me: See you in a couple hours.
Her: OHMYGAWDTHATISSOUNFAIR. I was just about to get back to work on my project!
Me: Totally unfair. Bye now.
Her: DAD! Why do you have to be so MEAN!!
Me: I know. You’re right. I’m awful. I’m Darth Vader. See you in a couple hours.
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Her: Come in.
Me: Is that a joke?
Her: No. You can come in.
Me (inching into the room slowly): You … you didn’t install a trapdoor or anything in here, did you?
Me: OK. Just checking. (Sitting down next to her on her bed.) You sound sorta down.
Her: I am, I guess.
Me: What’s going on?
Her: Nothing, I guess. I mean, nothing major. I was just texting with Hannah.
Me: How’s she doing?
Her: Not great. Her parents are separating.
Me: Oh. That sucks. I’m sorry to hear that.
Her: Yeah. I mean, it’s OK. She basically knew it was going to happen, but they just made the decision today.
Me: Does she sound OK?
Her: I think so. I mean, I’m sure she’s not, but you know.
Me: I know. It’s not easy.
Her: I hate it when my friends go through hard stuff.
Me: I know.
(We silently sit for a while.)
Her: I’m sorry I can be cranky sometimes.
Me: It’s OK. We all get cranky.
Her: I don’t know if it’s hormones or just my personality.
Me: I vote hormones.
Me: Trust me. You’re fine.
Her: Can we watch a movie tonight after dinner?
Me: Sure. Maybe we could watch Finding Nemo again.
Me: You want some time to yourself before then?
Me: OK. Come on down when you’re ready.
Her: I will.
Me: You’re my favorite human.
Her: You’re my favorite human, too. Love you.
Me (closing her door behind me, heart quietly melting): Love you, too.
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Photo for Conversations with My Teenage Daughter, the Post-Millennial: Kevin McKeever