“You may have to carry tampons,” suggested Judy Antell, who was among several writers at Traveling Mom advising me a few weeks ago as I prepared to take my first-ever father-daughter trip with my 14-year-old.
I got plenty of other good tips from the parents at Traveling Mom (I always do) but to some degree I was prepared to let the unusual circumstances of our trip dictate my strategy: my daughter and I were headed for the Playlist Live convention in Orlando, a conflagration of 8,000 hyper-excited teenagers vying for the chance to score autographs and get selfies with YouTube celebrities.
If you’ve ever been to a fan convention, you know the scene – hordes of pathologically impatient people, frighteningly long lines, and way too few bathrooms and food concessions. And that very dynamic helped define what my primary functions would be that weekend – bodyguard, chaperone, butler, line-space saver, and cash dispenser.
Given this dynamic, this wasn’t the kind of father-daughter trip where I could throw my arm around her shoulder and say, “let’s have some quality time together!” Although in our own way, and in lots of serendipitous little ways, we had just the kind of trip I think we both had hoped for. Here now, a few of the things that helped make our father-daughter time together go more smoothly …
1. Take it easy. Without my two younger kids in tow, it became easier than it would have otherwise been to take travel delays in stride, and my teen is relatively low-maintenance – like most teens, if you give her a phone, she’ll sit quietly. So when JetBlue announced that our flight to Orlando would be delayed by 2.5 hours, my head didn’t explode at the prospect of entertaining her. We sat in silence much of the time, and it was a genuine companionable silence. No one was making demands on us, and we were happy sharing the blissful experience of being accountable to no one.
2. Remember – even though it’s a father-daughter trip, it’s really all about her. That precise advice, from Traveling Mom founder Kim Orlando, was one of the guiding principles of the trip. While I would have preferred to have spent more time with my daughter, I found that it was far easier to be Super Useful Dad. At various times, this meant holding a seat for her at meet-ups so that she could do other meet-ups in the meantime (the “take it easy” mantra as well as my having eBooks downloaded on my smartphone was a big sanity-saver here). At times, I would also magically show up wherever she might be waiting in line and hand her food and water, where I was rewarded with a sincere “Thanks, Dad!”
3. “Treat her like a princess, not like a pal,” Traveling Mom editor Cindy Richards suggested to me. This piece of advice reinforced my tendency to give my daughter some space and pamper her more. Some of the pampering manifested itself in pricey cabs and car services for our airport transfers – versus slumming it on shuttle buses – but the truth is, it was easy for me to reason that my Super Dad role had earned me the right to spoil myself, too. So when the time came to purvey the inevitable convention merchandise – “when all else fails, shop,” Orlando noted – both my daughter and I indulged. And while my teen was fairly responsible about saving up money to buy herself souvenirs, it was hard not to want to get her that little something extra beyond her budget. So, if you are going the princess route, carry plenty of cash.
4. Try to bond through social media…but don’t push it. While waiting at the gate for our delayed plane, we naturally turned to Twitter. My daughter took a “live Tweet” approach. Among her reports:
~ My 🙂 flight 🙂 is 🙂 delayed 🙂
~ This gate is so boring no one wants to turn up
~ UPDATE: I AM BOARDING IN 15 MIN AND I HAVE PURCHASED ANOTHER PRETZEL
My approach was more targeted. I Tweeted JetBlue about how ironic it was that I paid extra for their expedited security line, only to hurry up and wait at the gate for hours. JetBlue Tweeted back their apologies and later in the day sent me and my daughter $50 each in JetBlue travel credits. But the real reward was that my daughter thought it was cool that JetBlue had Tweeted me back, and when I thanked JetBlue for giving me a little cred with my daughter, they responded: “Hey, you betcha! #CoolDadPoints”
Riding high on my #CoolDadPoints, I doubled down and asked my daughter if I could follow her on Twitter. If you do, she informed me good naturedly, I’ll block you.
After our trip I did follow her on Twitter and, true to her word, she blocked me.