Some fathers worry about losing touch with their teenagers. Don’t bother. You will. Your very existence as their father, as the man who did something (to their mother!!) that led to their entry into this world, is enough to make them cringe with embarrassment. If you are overweight and have hairs beginning to grow out of your nose and ears, your physical presence will act as a reminder that older people are gross, and they will be further repulsed. If you hug their mother in front of them they are forced to envision the possibility that your flabby flesh still comes into direct contact with their mother’s body. They will turn their heads away and cover their eyes in disgust.
But don’t take on their embarrassment and make it your own. Use their revulsion to your advantage instead. When they start to get mouthy and belligerent drive them from the room by taking the simple, expedient measure of giving your wife a sloppy, wet kiss. Murmur “Oh, Baby” a few times and they might take their bad attitude over to a neighbor’s house where they can bond with other teenagers suffering from similar horrors. You’ll be improving their social skills while enjoying some privacy with the woman you love. Win win!
When your presence in their general vicinity doesn’t appear to disturb them you can always speak to them. Suggestions and personal questions can bring startling results. “Who was that girl you were talking too?” will silence your boy and give you weeks of peace. He won’t be asking you for gas money any time soon. Suggest to your daughter that she should meet a nice young man named Chris (any name will do) that you ran into at the Home Depot. She will scorn and ignore you for at least three days, three days in which her mother will have to deal with her whiny demands.
If your children misbehave at school and start running around with a bad crowd don’t make the mistake of threatening them with outlandish punishments. Don’t tell them that they’re not living up to the family name and that you’re embarrassed to admit to their teachers that you are their parent. Do something much more insidious and terrifying: tell them that you are concerned about their future and have resolved to spend all of your spare time with them until they graduate from high school (and perhaps beyond). Tell them that you will be their close and personal coach until they reach adulthood. And then watch in amazement as they go out and get part time jobs and buckle down at school. They won’t have enough energy to get into trouble while working desperately hard to get enough cash and education to escape orbit from your gravitational pull.
Don’t be obvious and yell and scream when they screw up. They’ve heard it all before. Don’t give them space when they tell you that they need it. Space is for astronauts. Insist on being a persistent presence, a pebble in their shoe until you drive them onward to greatness or, at the very least, out of the house. They’ll thank you later…much, much later.