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Holiday time with — and without — my daughters

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The holidays are here and with them, family time, right? My older daughter is home from college, my younger one on vacation from high school. Now’s our chance to play together, do things, have fun.

Except it seems I’m mistaken because they’re both spending so much time with friends. We managed to light Hanukkah candles together three out of eight nights and only because of careful planning and a flurry of text messages pleading for their presence at home — just half an hour of their time before getting on with their busy social lives.

My younger daughter even asked if she could spend New Year’s Eve with friends, an event we’ve shared as a family for all but one of her 17 years of life. She was clearly prepared when I shot down that idea because she had already lined up a classmate to join us for the night.

My older daughter’s life is more complicated now, with college companions spread across the country and a desire to see them all.

I certainly don’t mind sharing my girls with their friends and, whenever workable, happily include their buds in our activities. Their world revolves around peers and the things they do together. I get that, and it isn’t only drinking and carousing they share. It is also movies, theater, museums, baking — so many pursuits that once required adult supervision (mine) but now they do on their own.

I have no intention of isolating my daughters from their peers or keeping them in arms reach 24/7, but I’m beginning to wonder what’s gained by enforcing family time.

My fear is if I impose too many restrictions they’ll be bitter and resentful about being separated from friends, making our time together un-fun at best and, at worst, unpleasant. Or, my kids will be holed up in their rooms with computers and cellphones, not even emerging to watch a movie together with a bowl of popcorn.

I don’t want our time together to become a punishment.

However, I’m not ready to simply give up on family time. Some of my reasons are selfish — I like my kids and enjoy time with them. I get so much out of seeing the world through their eyes, understanding their ideas and dreams. I want to keep our bonds tight, or at least stay connected to my girls and their interests. There’s also a value here that family is important and one of the ways we show that is doing things together, whether it’s dinner or stuffing holiday cards.

A family should be more than a collection of individual lives that happen to share the same roof, right?

I’m navigating through the holidays, trying to find a middle ground, expecting some time and attention from my girls but yielding whole days so they can see their peeps. I’m willing to create a little resentment, but not so much as to destroy our time together; demanding their presence enough but not too much. Hopefully, my daughters will have very happy holidays, and I’ll even be part of them.

Some of the time.

Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
Posted 12:00 am, December 26, 2014
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Reasonable discourse

Angie B. from bed stuy says:
Wow, i have an 18 year old girl too so I understand. But at the end of the day trying to enforce anything of that nature on them sounds like you don't understand the young adult desire to create a self independent from parents. This is part of their process. You can still have time with them but I think some of what you decide has to be on their terms. Tell them how you feel and try to come to a mutual agreement so that you don't have to be the big bad wolf by enforcing things in a way that will upset them. Good luck.
Dec. 27, 2014, 6:27 am

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