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What happens when your kids can’t stand your company anymore?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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In a fit of parental leniency, I let my 15-year-old daughter go to the opening night — at midnight — showing of the new Harry Potter movie. She was ecstatic, hanging with some senior girls, staying up outrageously late on a school night.

When I told her 12-year-old sister about this plan, I got, “Why can’t I go with them?” I explained and then said with tremendous enthusiasm and sincerity, “I’ll see the movie with you the next day!”

She turned a horrified look at me, and through barely contained tears shouted, “But I don’t want to go with you!”

Could she have jammed the proverbial knife any deeper in my heart and twisted any harder?

I felt blindsided by the moment, a victim of self-delusion, thinking the day when my youngest would chose friends over me was still far away — a girl who still insists on good-night kisses after being tucked in.

This movie seemed a safe choice. We’ve always shared the Harry Potter stories as a family, reading the books and seeing the movies together, listening to the tapes on long car trips and quizzing each other with trivia books.

This wasn’t the “Twilight” movies, with those embarrassing romantic moments, this was Harry Potter is an action movie, my territory. I thought it fell into the category of things we could still do together, that doing something with dad could still be fun. Wrong and wrong.

For both of them, it’s now all about the friends. Eating, entertainment, transportation is shifting away from me. My younger daughter can spend most of a weekend moving from place to place with a pod of girls, stopping at our place to shut the den door and watch a movie, then passing Henry Street for pizza or snacks, then to someone else’s place for a video game.

The older one used to put up with me on shopping expeditions because I held the credit card. Now she hoards her allowance or asks for money and roams Atlantic Avenue with friends, looking for shirts and skirts on sale.

I recognize this is important, part of their never-ceasing movement towards independent lives of their own. I don’t want them to be emotionally stalled people who never leave home, existing forever in their childhood rooms. I’m just not ready to be quarantined from their company.

Doing things with them is important, providing us a context for being together, shared experience, an opportunity for me to teach them life skills. Most important, I have such fun with them. Movies, shopping, finding a quick snack or stumbling on a street fair, being with them is an adventure and a much better time than supervising homework or arguing about their messy rooms, tasks that remain mine.

They both enjoyed the movie. The older one had to be dragged from bed and pushed out the door to school on Friday morning. The younger one saw it on Court Street with a group of seventh graders. My wife and I went to see it a few days later. I liked the movie, but missed the kids.

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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