Dear Amomama, I heard more than intended when my daughter forgot to hang up the phone after one of our calls, and I learned never to eavesdrop on others again.
My daughter, Suzanne, was the brightest in her class throughout high school. She has always been my greatest pride and joy, especially after receiving a letter of acceptance to the best university around, which was also my alma mater.
That day, my wife, Bonnie, and I celebrated like never before. We had done our jobs well. Suzanne had grown up to be a kind and loving person, and she respected us completely. She was close to her mother, but I must admit that our father-daughter bond was even more special.
My daughter didn't have time to call. | Source: Shutterstock
But just like many kids, Suzanne had not been calling us as often anymore. She was always busy with school, and I really missed hearing about her life. It was my fault, too, because work was always hectic.
We couldn’t find the right time to talk on the phone before one of us had to hang up, which took a toll on us. My wife seemed sad about our “empty nest,” and I didn’t know how to cheer her up.
One day, I got home from work and saw Bonnie in the kitchen. She was cleaning counters that didn’t need any cleaning. So, I approached her and hugged her from behind. “Hey, darling. How was your day?” I asked.
I asked my wife about her day. | Source: Pexels
“Well, it was pretty boring. I feel like there’s nothing to do at home anymore,” Bonnie answered as she arranged some cookies and tea for us to eat. She was right. The house was too quiet all the time.
“How about we call Suzanne? See if she can talk a little longer this time?” I suggested.
“I don’t want to bother her when she’s so busy, but that sounds like a great idea,” she told me. So, I grabbed the phone, put it on speaker, and waited for our daughter to answer.
“Hey, Dad!” Suzanne answered.
We called Suzanne to check in. | Source: Pexels
“Suzanne! I’m here with your mother on speaker. How are you?” I asked.
“Well, I’m doing alright. But it’s not as easy as I imagined,” she said.
“No, of course not, dear. It’s college! But how are your classes?” Bonnie chimed in.
“Guys, I’m so sorry. But I have this huge paper for Mr. Eggers’ class, and he is one of the toughest teachers in school. I can’t risk failing. I have to go,” Suzanne explained. We said goodbye and hung up the phone reluctantly.
Suzanne had to hang up quickly. | Source: Pexels
The phone call was not what we were expecting, but it was better than nothing. Suzanne was keeping up with school and seemed optimistic. Although Bonnie told me later that she seemed tired too. “That’s to be expected, Bonnie. It’s her first semester.”
We didn’t dwell on it too long and went to bed that night. A few days went by without any word from Suzanne. So I decided to call her on a rare free moment at work, thinking that she might have more time during the day than at night.
“Oh, hey, Dad. How are you?” Suzanne said when she answered my call.
Suzanne answered happily. | Source: Pexels
“I’m doing good, sweetheart. We just haven’t heard anything from you in a few days. Not even on social media. I’m free now from work. So, I thought I’d call and catch up. How are you doing?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s going fine. But it’s absolutely insane. It feels like you don’t have a second to breathe. I don’t understand how my friends are partying all the time while I’m practically living in the library,” she explained.
“Well, Suz, some people see college as a time to party. I wouldn’t want you to become one of them, but you should enjoy your experience too,” I added, concerned that she might be too stressed.
I tried to give her advice on having fun at college. | Source: Pexels
“Don’t worry, Dad. I have fun too. I’ve made friends and we hang out. But all of us are really focused on getting good grades, and it’s pretty hard,” Suzanne added.
I was proud of her for making friends with studious people. “I’m sure you’ll get a break soon,” I added. “It might not be a wild party, but you and your friends should go down to the beach sometime.”
“That’s a great idea, Dad. But speaking of breaks, I’m at a café meeting with a friend to study. So, I have to go,” Suzanne said. I sighed and said goodbye. These phone calls were never long, but this one had been pretty great, all things considered.
I said goodbye reluctantly. | Source: Pexels
I had lowered the phone to my desk after saying goodbye but realized that Suzanne had not hung up the call yet. I could still hear her voice. I wasn't proud of it, but curiosity got the best of me. So, I started to listen in on her conversation.
“He’s the worst, Darla. You have no idea,” I heard Suzanne say to her friend. I was stunned. Was she talking about me? I couldn’t believe it. My daughter would never do that.
“That’s a little harsh, Suzanne. He’s an older man stuck in his ways,” I heard an unfamiliar voice say. That must be Darla.
I was stunned by Suzanne's word and kept listening. | Source: Pexels
“No, Darla. He’s just so patronizing all the time. He wants to be up in my business and won’t leave me alone for a second. I hate him,” my daughter continued.
But I couldn’t listen anymore. After all these years, my own daughter hated me? How was that possible? She had just told her friend that I was patronizing and up in her business.
I thought we had given her a lot of space since she left for college. I couldn’t concentrate at work after that and decided to leave early.
“Darling! What are you doing home so early?” Bonnie asked when I got home that afternoon. "Is everything alright?" I couldn't hide the worry on my face and explained to Bonnie what I heard Suzanne say to her friend.
Bonnie asked me what was wrong. | Source: Pexels
“Eric, were you spying on our daughter?” Bonnie chided me.
“I couldn’t help it, Bonnie,” I continued. “She never stays long on a call, and I know kids don’t always tell their parents when they’re struggling. I was like that too, and I just wanted to see if she was alright because you were right. She does sound tired.”
“See what happens when you eavesdrop? There’s a saying about that,” she told me. “But anyway. Your daughter doesn’t hate you, Eric. She’s just worried about school. Maybe we should be a little less insistent.”
Bonnie suggested giving Suzanne more freedom. | Source: Pexels
“No. I need to clear things up. Let’s go down to her school and see her. She can’t hate me, Bonnie. She’s my only baby,” I cried to her. Bonnie tried to soothe me but realized how much I needed to go to Suzanne’s school.
“Let’s go,” she said after grabbing our car keys. I followed her, and together, we drove to my old alma mater. I took my phone out when we entered the big campus and let Suzanne know that we would be waiting outside her dorm room.
She sounded surprised on the phone but not angry. That was a good sign. Bonnie and I waited for a few minutes before Suzanne showed up.
Suzanne's college dorm | Source: Unsplash
“Hey! My last class of the day just ended!” she said and hugged us both. “I’m glad to see you guys, but I didn’t know you were coming today.” She opened her dorm door and asked us to come inside. It looked exactly like my old room here during freshman year.
“Sit down. I’m sorry it’s messy,” Suzanne continued. “So, what’s up? Why are you here?”
“Listen, honey. Your father was very concerned about something he heard on the phone. You’ll have to forgive him for snooping,” Bonnie started, but I needed to ask Suzanne myself.
I asked Suzanne for the truth. | Source: Pexels
“Do you hate me?” I asked as calmly as possible. “Am I patronizing you? Were we helicoptering parents?”
“What are you talking about?” Suzanne asked, completely confused. I explained what happened earlier that day when she didn’t hang up the phone and what I heard her say.
“Are you crazy?” Suzanne exclaimed loudly and smirked. “Mom, you always taught me not to eavesdrop, but it seems you never taught Dad about it.”
Suzanne was shocked by my question. | Source: Pexels
“This is not funny, Suz,” I said.
“It is funny, Dad,” she explained. “I wasn’t talking about you. It was all about Mr. Eggers. He’s so old-fashioned and won’t give his students freedom to learn. I can’t stand him, and he seems to bother me the most in class.”
I was shocked and chagrined. Bonnie laughed after Suzanne’s explanation, and they looked at me with smiles on their faces. After a few moments, I joined in their laughter as well. "I’ll never eavesdrop on anyone ever again!"
What can we learn from this story?
. Eavesdropping can really hurt people’s feelings, and it leads to misunderstandings. It’s better not to do it.
2. Clear up misunderstandings quickly. Her father wanted to clear up everything with Suzanne quickly, but some people would’ve stayed mad forever. Be like Suzanne’s dad.
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