Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Don't Know

When my husband and I shop together, we utilize the ‘divide and conquer’ approach. We each choose a side of the store, then meet to pay for our items. Add a daughter or two, and the reunion at the register is always full of surprises.
“Why are we buying a curling iron and a straightener? Won’t they cancel each other out?” asked Michael, as he watched one daughter’s selections slide by on the register’s conveyor belt.
I looked at my husband, who was more confused than genuinely interested, and said, “I don’t know.”
That’s my response lately when trying to explain our daughters. I’ve read books, listened to experts, attended seminars, and now at age 50, when I should be ready to dispense at least a little wisdom, I’ve taken a break from mediating the father/daughter relationships. Besides, I really don’t know.
I used my canned response again when Elise came home from college to shop for a dress to wear to a concert in Shreveport. “Why does she need a new dress? No one in Shreveport knows her. They have never seen any of her dresses. Why can’t she wear something that she already owns?” Michael was full of questions.
I looked at him, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I don’t know.”
En route to Shreveport, we stopped for a fifth and final time, a personal record that I never wish to break. Monique, Lauren, and Victoria entered the gas station and still hadn’t returned after several minutes. “What’s taking them so long?” their father asked.
I glanced at the gas station, then at the Subway shop next to it, and even though I had a pretty good idea about the delay, four hours of sleep the night before left me with only enough energy to say, “I don’t know.” It was several minutes later that the happy trio emerged from the store with sandwiches.
At this point, I decided not to use my other default response. That one is reserved for occasions when I can say it sincerely, like when Monique asked to borrow my camera so that she could begin a sideline photography business. I said, “That’s a wonderful idea.”
I didn’t use it when Lauren wanted to skip her Statistics test and take it two days later. Lauren has many wonderful ideas, but this was not one of them. She had spent hours studying and delaying the test would only cause her additional stress.
Elise heard it after we moved her to her college dorm. Before leaving Thibodaux, I said, “Come home whenever you want. We’ll always be happy to see you.”
Twenty-five minutes later, my cell phone rang. “Where are you?” Elise asked.
“On the Lutcher bridge.”
“Can I sleep home tonight?”
“That’s a wonderful idea,” I said, knowing that soon she would adjust to her new life, and such calls would be rare.
How long will I continue with these two responses? I don’t know, but letting my daughters explain themselves to their father has been a wonderful idea.

©2009 Ronny Michel - May be forwarded in its entirety, including the copyright line.