Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Sleeping Beauty' Wakes Up

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Sleeping Beauty' Wakes Up

Article excerpt

The year our oldest child entered middle school, we were warned by the principal to expect monumental changes in her behavior.

"Don't be surprised," he cautioned the assembled parents of incoming sixth-graders, "if, in the next three years, your child goes through periods when he or she appears to have had a personality transplant."

Optimistically, we felt we would be spared the worst, that our firstborn, though a willful two-year-old, would prove a more tractable adolescent.

I should have known better.

Halfway through seventh grade, she came home from a Saturday morning bar mitzvah service sneezing, nose running, eyes watery, and announced she was headed for the mall. When I suggested she rest before the evening party, she insisted she felt fine. More important, she had promised to meet friends for lunch.

I grew insistent; she turned surly. Soon we were locked in screaming confrontation, neither willing to yield an inch. Finally, I blocked the front door and announced, "You're not going anywhere, young lady, but to your room!"

She squared off against me with uncharacteristic boldness and declared, "You can't stop me!" and with those four words embarked on a period of adolescent obstinacy that shattered all my illusions and disrupted our home for the next year.

The same child who six months earlier had written impassioned letters from summer camp expressing her love and homesickness now wanted nothing so much as to be quit of her parents. What she had long known and appreciated, that we always had her best interests at heart, she suddenly ignored. So for the next 12 months I referred to her sardonically as "Sleeping Beauty."

She was right about one thing; fathers of rapidly maturing adolescent girls cannot expect to use physical force to control or persuade. My daughter was long past the stage when I might pick her up and carry her, kicking and screaming, to her room. …

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