After a busy, chaotic summer, I have both my daughters home, together, for the first time in two months. I hear them stirring at the front door and ask where they’re going. “To a movie, ‘The Bourne Legacy’,” one reports. I’m excited. Action movies are our thing. I start putting my shoes on when I notice them looking at me.
“I’m not invited?” They shake their heads gently, trying to let me down easy.
“We’re going together.” And they were off, leaving me at home with the dog.
What’s with that? I’m glad they were so happy to see each other after being apart so long. It was heartwarming to hear them sitting together, talking into the night and to find them snuggled up watching TV. But that doesn’t mean they get to shut me out.
I imagined this day, years from now, my girls meeting, when they were grown, with their own apartments and lives, maybe for lunch or dinner or a movie, getting together with their spouses and kids. The thought always makes me smile. Having siblings who like each other and have a relationship as adults is one of those parenting success stories I dream of.
But not now, when they are still teenagers living at home. This is the time of their lives I’m supposed to be included in, right? Today I expect our interactions to be about family time, togetherness, enjoying the old man while you still can.
The way I view my daughters’ relationship is really based on the hope they will out last me. When I’m gone, they’ll have each other to celebrate birthdays, holidays, send pictures of their kids, get a call on their birthday. Siblings make a family when your parents are gone.
But right now I’m still here, so take me to the movie.
Then I realize it doesn’t work that way. I can’t expect my girls to simply turn on a relationship when they’re older. That’s something built one year at a time over a life. It certainly took me a while to form meaningful connections with my sisters, both a good bit older than me. Yet, their doing things with me when I was little, and as I grew, was certainly part of the foundation our adult interactions are built on.
For my own daughters, doing things together, without me are the building blocks of their future alliance. They are already forming their own traditions and rituals, helping each other pick out clothes, shopping, getting frozen yogurt together, even the way they share a black and white cookie, one eating the chocolate half and the other the vanilla. If I really believe they should build a strong connection then I need to get out of the way.
When they came back from the movie I asked how it was. Both gave it rave reviews. I tried hard to hide my disappointment in not being included, but I did ask if they might go see it again with me, hoping to find room for both their private time and us all doing things together. I was delighted when they said “yes.”
Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.