I was horrified and disgusted by something my 17-year-old daughter did not long ago. I almost can’t repeat it, I’m so appalled by her behavior. Here goes: she ate a hamburger (yechhh!) — and enjoyed it!
She’s been a vegetarian her whole life, and has never experienced the salt and fatty sensation of bacon coating her lips or eating roast beef and dribbling au jus down the front of her clothes.
I’m the reason she’s meat-averse, having chosen to be an herbivore before my children graced this earth.
My girls always got the message it is their choice whether to follow my path, and, so far, they did.
They went to camps and schools, navigating cafeteria lines and birthday parties where they chose to keep the faith.
So this turn of events totally caught me by surprise.
I felt not exactly betrayed, but rejected in some fundamental way. This was rebellion as I never imagined. Kids are supposed to get in trouble with drinking and stuff, but no one told me they might become Republicans if I’m a Democrat. That’s how it felt.
I don’t need my girls to be my moral clones, but there is a deep satisfaction when they accept as their own some aspect of my life.
I’m not talking about liking the same movies or having the same favorite dish when we get Chinese take-out. Deeper ideas and attitudes, agreeing what’s right and wrong, that’s the stuff.
When we talk politics, like who is at fault for the fiscal cliff, and if, after a long debate, my teenagers basically agree with me, there is something satisfying about the outcome. As an adult, there can be so little fresh validation for the views I hold, but when my kids consider, argue, disagree, and then come to the same conclusion I do, that affirmation of my beliefs feels pretty good.
When they expressed the same values as me when they were little, if it felt like imitation. Now, as teenagers, their conclusions feel founded in reason, and so carry more weight.
I know my kids will make so many choices in their lives, many won’t be the ones I would make. I accept they are different than me, but maybe I want them, at some deep, fundamental level, to be the similar, identifiable. Not mini-mes, but at least recognizable as cut from the same cloth.
The places I look for this are in the way they treat their friends, what comes out of their mouths when they read the paper, how they care for animals, if they litter, and whether they continue to be vegetarians.
My daughter ate that hamburger, and a few more on a trip. She tried out a flesh-eating lifestyle when she was away from home, almost like wearing different clothes or speaking a different language. I had forgotten teenagers do this, morph into new creatures just to see what it is like.
The moment she stepped through the door on her return home, she was a tofu-hugging, veggie-loving person again. I wouldn’t say I was relieved, more satisfied, reaffirmed in my life and a choice I made.
She could switch back any day but for that moment, I felt pretty good.Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.