On a road trip to my teenage daughter’s soccer tournament, I learned a lot about her, about myself and the connection that we share.
I guess each father can share their separate story on when they “knew” their daughters "grew up”on them…
Mine is probably no different.
It started for me with a weekend-long, out-of-town soccer tournament. I arranged to have my two younger children stay the weekend with my parents while I made my way to the tournament with my 14 year old daughter. The tournament was in the big beautiful town of Palmdale, California. Now, if you have never been to Palmdale, let me tell you a little about this place. The town exists for three primary reasons: as a home to the military, as a bedroom community for those who work in Los Angeles and as a center for major soccer tournaments.
I took the opportunity to make the 4-hour drive from San Diego to Palmdale a time to bond with my daughter. It was my weekend with my kids and I wanted to show my daughter my support and participation of her soccer team. It was a long season for all of us. The team had heart, but lacked a constant 11-person roster and I was very proud of my daughter for not giving up on herself or her teammates. Soccer has always been very good to me throughout my athletic career and I was grateful to go on this road trip with my oldest daughter.
I think if I could give any single dad a great middle ground to talk with their teenager, I would highly recommend talking about music. I think music is a great way to share and exchange each other’s passions about the times, the places we live and the similarities we share. I have XM radio in my car and it is always a great time when I play “Random Channel Trivial Pursuit” with my daughter. The bonus is that we, as dads, can also learn what is current, become a little “hipper” and develop a common ground. The 4-hour game lead up to a “sudden death tie-breaker” and I managed to squeak-out a small lead. Who said Dad doesn’t have game? We finally arrived in Palmdale.
Oh yeah, Palmdale. Now, my daughter and I ventured out to Palmdale in the middle of March, and this city is known in the springtime to have “high desert winds". That’s 25-30 mile per hour constant wind…day and night!
Our hotel only had one room left and the room only had a queen-size bed and one, small pull-out bed. As a good dad and fair father, I flipped for it and lost the use of the queen-size bed and opted for the pull-out. Now, I’m far from being a tall, dark and handsome type…I can barely stretch to 5’7” on a good day with a running start, but this pull-out made me feel and look BIG. We ate our take-out food, watched TV, and stocked up for the next 2 days with plenty of Smartwater, CliffBars, and chocolate! (I love road trips.)
7 AM Game 1: Soccer and Wind Don’t Mix!
The fields are in the middle of nowhere and there is enough wind to start a tornado. Needless to say, we had challenges. The combination of high winds, 11 players, no substitutions, high winds… you get the picture. I was very proud of my daughter for looking at the good in everything. Despite the loss, we talked about the game without ever being critical of anything.
LESSON 1: Listen. Support. Agree.
We had a break between games and I did what every father should do in between games: eat, relax and find a place that serves a warm lunch and a cold beer! March Madness was going on and it was my duty to tell my daughter about East Coast / West Coast Basketball tradition. Despite my feelings, UCLA was getting their butt kicked and I had to show “sportsmanship” to my daughter in a big, bad way.
LESSON 2: Always show sportsmanship to your child.
3 PM Game 2: More Wind–No Kidding!
Another combination of 25 mile per hour wind, 9 players (2 injured), no substitutions, and an eager team waiting to take advantage of us. Despite the obvious disadvantage, our coach out-coached their coach to minimize a possible blow-out. We lost with pride and it was now time to celebrate with a drive back to the shopping mall and do what every father should do to temporarily remedy a soccer loss…take your daughter shopping!
LESSON 3: Shopping with your daughter can be fun, IF the mall has a sports bar and your daughter has a cell phone!
We shopped for a movie, but couldn’t decide. I won the choice of restaurants and somehow convinced my daughter that a rack of barbequed, baby back ribs would be much healthier than a trip to some fast food joint. So, we indulged a great conversation about Britney Spears verses Kevin Federline– who would become the better parent in the long run. On the drive back to the hotel, I lost my lead in “Random Channel Trivial Pursuit,” but was happy to know that the real reward was that I was going to sleep in a real bed and not the pull-out.
SUNDAY: More Winds.
I don’t think you can really tell the difference between 30 and 35 mile per hour winds, but you sure can feel the difference between a wind chill of 30 and 35 mile per hour winds. I have to credit my ex-wife for giving me three incredibly healthy children. Because even I was sitting on the sidelines, wearing a sweat suit and obviously not sweating, my daughter endured a cold and wind-blown 90-minute soccer game. She played her heart out with courage and determination, not allowing a goal on her side of the field.
Our drive back was a little longer than the ride up due to a highway closure, but I was happy to spend more alone time with my oldest. This is where the weekend one-on-one time created a once in a lifetime experience for me. Our drive back conversations opened the door for me to share my history of growing up with Grandma and Grandpa, more “Random Channel Trivial Pursuit” (where I barely pulled off a win), conversations about her friends, her interests, boys, boyfriends, school, college, and life in general. We laughed, we cried, we genuinely had fun. All I can tell you is that I feel grateful to be the father of an intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, and generous young woman.
I love all three of my children very much and it is amazing how quickly they all change and grow into young adults. I will always cherish the times I have with all of them. But I am particularly grateful for this soccer tournament because it brought me closer to my daughter and created a connection with her during these teenage years.
Lesson 4: You can never give your teenage daughter too much respect. Give it freely and be aware that your words of encouragement, trust and support mean a lot to them right now.
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”