In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to you, dear readers, for insight.
People will almost constantly tell the dad of a young daughter that he's in for a wonderful, sweet ride ... until his girl turns 13.
"Wait until she's 19, 20, and it will all be good again."
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. Hundreds. Thousands.
And I always think, "That's not going to be me." But then my thoughts begin to drift to a show I watched the night before or the previous week, and I begin to dwell on the absurd idea that if TV family relationships are to be believed, every girl eventually declares war and moves in with her grandparents.
I'm a sucker for these sappy shows. In high school, I had a few girlfriends and a couple girl friends in our circle, but I only received small glimpses into what family life is like for teenage girls and their parents. So when a TV show features these relationships, I'm sort of drawn to the car wreck, trying to divine some semblance of truth behind the made up, hyper-sensationalized, jazz-up-the-storyline TV families.
The gold standard is probably the Gilmore Girls — it's like the great white whale of familial joy with teenagers. I have a few older mom friends who feel broken up inside because that kind of His Girl Friday, binge-eating, coffee-swilling relationship never materialized with their daughters. Which, I guess, is kind of odd. The Gilmore Girls had a good thing going but when push came to shove, didn't Rory move into Emily's?
And that brings me to Parenthood, the series based on the better Steve Martin movie from the 1990s. In the series, one of the teenage Braverman girls moves out of her parents house because she was forbidden to have a relationship with a 19-year-old recovering alcoholic who has his own apartment and seems now to really have his life back on track. My wife waved her hand at the screen and rolled her eyes, reminding me that A. she had a fantastic relationship with her parents, and B. it doesn't matter if a boyfriend has his own apartment; teenagers are going to find a way to screw.
I've been particularly taken with the father-daughter relationship on Lie To Me, a series about a guy who can read minor facial ticks and body language to see when people are lying. Every once in awhile, he brings out the shotgun references to save his teenage daughter's virginity or whatever. But despite the endless bullying of boyfriends, the dad and daughter have an interesting push and shove relationship that seems built on trust. The girl is comfortable enough to tell her dad she broke up with a boy because the boy didn't want to have sex until marriage. (Is that a TV first? Usually it's the boy who pressures the girl.)
When I was a teenager, I had a great relationship with my mom. There were a few years when it was just the two of us, and although, yes, there were plenty of spats and bouts of teenage stupidity, for the most part we got along swimmingly. I enjoyed the little trips we took, grabbing fast food cokes and skittering around the region. The best days were always my birthday, when we hit every Denny's we could find in search of free meals; broke and with barely enough money for gas, my mom would buy the cheapest meal and then watch me pig out on free Grand Slams. We hit thrift stores together, went to movies — I told her about a lot of things, just not all. Looking back, we had amazing times. Even then, as a kid, I knew we had something special, and I'm hoping to repeat that with my daughter. Until then, I'll always have my stories.
I'm curious, what's your favorite TV relationship between parents and teenage girls?
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!. He knows that, given a few more years, Jan would have moved out of the Brady house for sure.