Even when our kids are independent adults themselves, it's hard to shut up and let them live. We just want them to be their best selves.

Why Can’t I Just Shut Up?

Even when our kids are independent adults themselves, it's hard to shut up and let them live. We just want them to be their best selves.

By Jon Ziegler

“Why do you always have to say something? Can’t you, just once, not say anything?”

I had just annoyed my daughter for the third time in a five-minute conversation by telling her she needed to vacuum the inside of her car. . . which was true . . .but why do I have to say it? She is twenty years old, and if she doesn’t want to vacuum out the interior of her car, who am I to say she needs to? Yet, I can’t stop myself. I am that dad.

The preceding two annoyances within the same conversation were sparked by my telling her that A) she was spending too much time and money on tanning, and B) she and her peers, the millennials, would be the downfall of modern civilization . . . and perhaps the downfall any other alien civilizations that were sneaking around here on earth as well. I was just kidding about millennials ending life as we know it, but even so, she claims that I only joke about things that I believe to be true.

My unwanted advice not only annoys my daughter, but it annoys me too. I remember the unwanted advice from my parents when I was twenty. I remember thinking I would never do that to my kids when I had them. Yet here I am, spitting out droplets of knowledge and opinion at what might be an even higher rate than was spat upon me.

Often, after a conversation has taken place, I’ll go back and inventory all the things I had said that annoyed my daughter. I’ll determine which of my comments were necessary and which were just me being that kind of a dad. Last night’s inventory went something like this:

I told her: “You shouldn’t wear your white sneakers after it has rained all day. They will just get muddy. You will ruin them.”

In review: The statement is true. Yet, I have told her this since she was a child. If she hasn’t learned by now, my telling her again is probably unnecessary. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it. But then, maybe if I say it enough, it might actually sink in some day . . . yes, this statement was justified.

I told her: “You shouldn’t buy the Chili Cheese Fritos because the regular Fritos are better. The Chili Cheese flavor is just an artificial powder that is blasted onto the corn chips.”

In review: Why should it matter to me which Fritos she buys? . . . even if the regular Fritos being better than the Chili Cheese Fritos borders on fact rather than opinion. I just need to keep quiet. But maybe she has never tried the regular Fritos, though. Maybe my mentioning it will open a whole new world of Frito awesomeness to her. Yes, this statement was justified.

I told her: “You spend too much time with your nose stuck in that phone. You need to shut that thing off and live life in the real world for a while.”

In review: She rebutted that I had spent the previous two hours sitting on the couch staring at my phone. . . which was true, but I was killing time playing Angry Birds. Killing time is different than living inside my phone. She then pointed out that I was flipping through my phone while I was telling her not to be on her phone so much . . . again, true, but I was waiting for a response to a particularly well thought out and edgy comment I had made on a thread debating pros and cons of the latest Doctor Who character. She obviously cannot distinguish between warranted phone time and unwarranted phone time. This statement was certainly justified.

After a thorough review of my previous night’s unsolicited interjections, I determined that they were all justified . . . . ugh, I was hopeless. I was definitely THAT dad.

It’s so hard to shut off the part of me who managed her existence from cradle to diploma. It’s hard to accept she might make decisions that are different than the ones I would make. I guess that because I love her, I want to improve her life any way I can. I guess that because she is now an independent adult, I will desperately do anything to stay relevant in her life. . . even annoy her to the point where she questions whether she wants me in her life.


About the Author

Jon Ziegler spent most of his career as a tree trimmer and tower climber, but always found time to write. He has just put a “greatest hits” of his stories on Amazon called “Life from Outside the Refrigerator”.