As adults, we will express oohs and ahs at their cute little outfits while dispensing Tootsie Rolls into their bags. It’s hardly a scary evening … unless you open your door to ‘children’ who should have given up this ritual 10 years ago. When the guy in the clown outfit utters ‘trick or treat’ in a commanding baritone voice, you might be compelled to drop two or three Snickers bars in his commando sack.
The ghost at the dinner table
However, this is but an annual event that generally plays out in one evening. What about the ghouls who live under your roof? They’re those boarders in your home who run by you in the hallway and disappear into their hallowed haven that is adorned with week-old chicken nuggets, an array of socks hanging from lamp fixtures and electronic gadgetry that seems to have multiplied overnight. In the spirit of the season, you suddenly feel like a ghost, a sensation that you might often also feel around the dinner table.
You are invisible. You might as well wear a white sheet over you. You are not the object, not even the indirect object, of any conversation. If anyone – the wicked witch or Count Dracula – glance in your direction, it is only because you have inadvertently tilted your plate with your elbow as you prepare to offer a prayer. Not for the food. Not for your lovely family, for survival through dinner.
Broomsticks and bats
As you utter a feeble table grace, you can hear the cackle of your 14-year-old daughter, punctuated by the staccato, throaty laugh coming from your 16-year-old son, Count Cool. Lucky you, dad. Every day is trick or treat at your house. You never know who will walk through your door and ignore you for the phantom that you are. Will it be the scarecrow? The gargoyle? The unresponsive zombie? Or maybe the fire-spewing dragon? You’ve seen and experienced them all at one time or another. They are treats … when they’re asleep.
While you often feel invisible in your own house, dad, you might even achieve the status of irrelevance. If you’re fortunate enough to be recognized and suggest that you actually might be able to offer some advice, you will no doubt be met with:
• Dad, it’s just that you never listen.
• Dad, you never agree with anything we say.
• Dad, you just don’t understand.
From Transylvania to transformation
Dad, take heart. Being invisible has nothing to do with not being loved. It has everything to do with not being allowed access for a time to the witch’s den or Dracula’s cave. This is very private territory. It’s a natural evolution of the father-teen relationship. Your ‘monsters’ in your house rely on your judgment and opinion, while at the same time resenting the fact that they have to. They want you there at the dinner table, and they also want you anywhere but there. Hang in there, dad.
As your children grow and mature, the treats will far outweigh the tricks.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.