Many dads of teenagers tell a similar story. It has its origin around the family dinner table and goes something like this…
Mom and teen get into a spirited discussion. It may be about a difficult teacher at school, an unrealistic homework assignment or perhaps an emotional news item. As the discussion becomes more and more spirited, the conversation tornado takes off and dad is left behind. Oh he’s there. But he might as well be wearing a white sheet. He is not the object, even the indirect object, of any comments. If anyone glances his way, it’s only because he’s shifted in his chair and stepped on the dog’s tail.
“Is Alex under the table, Mom?” daughter asks as she peers below. “He’s not supposed to be in the kitchen when we’re eating.” Nor is Dad apparently.
Dad wants to solve the issue or make the perfect comment and signify his presence. But who will hear? The sheet covers all of him. He is a white lump in the mashed potatoes of fatherhood.
Many fathers have felt a bit invisible. You sit there, lump-like, and finally work up the courage to interject a comment. You know the perfect answer that can fix the problem, issue or perspective.
You seize your chance for an opening. A pithy comment. Just the right response. Out it comes!
You’re met with blank stares – heard but not understood. You’re apparently speaking a foreign language no one comprehends.
“When I shared my ‘ghost’ experience with my daughters,” Tom says, “they responded, ‘Dad, get serious. We always knew you were there at the table.’ “
“Great. So I was visible, just ignored. I feel much better.” (Hmm, too sensitive maybe?)
Ghost is real
If you’re a dad and have kids who have been lucky enough to make it to their teens, there may sometimes be a sheet hanging on the back of your dining room chair, too. Perhaps you have felt the sting of invisibility or been anointed with the gift of speaking in a tongue that only you understand. Your teenagers will be surprised at that notion. They will insist that they always considered you part of the conversation. And they will tell you how grateful they were for your sage advice, however chopped, shredded or pureed.
Dad, there are times when you are — or will be — invisible. Your presence will not be warmly welcomed by your teenager. While it’s very real, it’s not forever. It has nothing to do with not being loved. It has everything to do with not be allowed access for a time to some very private territory. You’ll be on the outside, dad. But hang in there. There is a door. It opens from the inside.