By Thomas Lawlor

I was talking to a friend the other day and asked about her son.

"He is going through a hatey period right now," she said

"Haiti?" I asked.

"Yes."

"The country Haiti? He is in Haiti? "

"No."

"He is not in Haiti."

"Yes."

"Okay, I'm going to stop pretending I know what we are talking about. What are we talking about?"

"He is going through a hatey period; he hates everybody and everything."

"Okay, my daughters sometimes go through those periods. But I still don't think `hatey' is a word."

"Really?"

"Really, I'm pretty sure it's not in the dictionary."

"It should be."

"I agree."

Later that day my wife, Laura, said that she'd had a difficult day with our two teen daughters.

"Difficult or hatey?" I asked

"What?"

"Never mind."

I explained to Laura that I have never really had a bad day with the kids.

She replied, "You don't have a bad time with the kids. They are your buddies. They never hate you. They never challenge you. They always challenge me."

My wife went on like that for a while, and I thought, "With all this talking, it's no wonder people hate you." I didn't say it though. I just thought it.

When our second daughter was born almost 14 years ago, a mother on our street pulled me aside and said that I would have it easy. She said that in adolescence, girls hate their mothers and no one has enough energy after all that estrogen-fueled fighting to fight with their father.

She wasn't entirely right; they do still have enough in their fuel tanks to take an occasional odd swipe at me. But most of the fighting is with their mom. Maybe my wife is right.

But I don't try to be their buddy. I don't put much pressure on them when it comes to table manners or writing thank-you notes or anything that people would consider manners, or even passable behavior.

My wife also tries to get the kids' buy-in on many areas, and that takes a lot more dialogue. Dialogue that can be strained at times. I care about fewer things, and when I do care deeply about something, I tend to be more dictatorial. With the kids, I tend just to issue orders.

The girls know how to get around us both, which buttons to push. The girls know that the drama and crying works well on their mom and that trying to get their dad to laugh is going to get them a better outcome. We all know our buttons. That's why they call us a family.

I don't mind that they use humor on me. Actually it's great. It's a lot better than crying, but sometimes I get caught in the crossfire. I wouldn't mind if they would maybe go out to the driveway and fight in the car. Get out all their aggressions and then come into the house all smiley and happy. Not all hatey.

I want to ask my friend why her son is all hatey toward both parents and the world in general. Since he is a boy, shouldn't he be all hatey to the dad, or maybe the mom, or both? Why the rest of us 7.046 billion people on the planet? What did we do?

That boy's attitude is straining my delicate world view. In my world, girls are hatey toward their moms, and boys are hatey toward their dads. I have girls, so I win.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday.