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Mother-Daughter Ties Yank Dad

April 20, 1998|JIM SHEA

The mother-teenage daughter thing.

Best pals one minute, pit bulls the next.

They laugh. They cry. They shop. They share. They argue--about everything: homework, clothes, chores, sleep, television, tone of voice, the food groups, the relative strength of the dollar against the yen.

OK, so maybe the last one's an exaggeration. But if it ever came up . . . trust me.

Full-contact discourse is apparently quite common when one of the parties turns teenager and the other refuses to turn the other cheek.

From what I can figure out, the mother-teenage daughter thing boils down to this:

The one with the chunky boots wants to step out.

The one with the sensible shoes wants it step by step.

Does this conversation sound familiar?

"You're being so unfair."

"Life's unfair."

"When I have kids, I am never going to be this mean to them."

"I only hope you have a child just like you."

For the most part, the father is an innocent bystander in this fight of passage. Aside from the occasional plea for both sides to lay down their tongues and give peace and quiet a chance, his role is restricted to the following:

Whenever he hears the daughter say, "But all my friends are doing it," the father is duty-bound as a parent--hell, as an American--to observe: "If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you?"

There are usually other pitfalls, chief among them being the always tricky: "Mom said to ask you."

The father has two options: He can make an actual decision, which almost always backfires. Or he can avoid all controversy by simply responding:

"If it's all right with your mother, it's all right with me."

The mother-teenage daughter thing eventually graduates from the era of "oy vey" to a stage best described as "don't ask, don't tell"--or college. However, it never, ever goes away completely.

Take the teenage daughter's mother. The teenage daughter's mother is chronically--some might say pathologically--late for everything and everyone. Except when it involves her own mother. Then she is obsessively--some might say psychotically--punctual.

Why?

Man, are you asking the wrong person.

*

Jim Shea is a columnist at the Hartford Courant. To reach him write to Jim Shea, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.

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