Really Dad? 'When the daughter gets her driver's license'

For months Mickey had ridden around and around and around our house in endless circles, her stereo cranked, her smile beaming, anticipating that day when she could nose out of the driveway onto the open road. And then two weeks ago, it happened: My baby girl got her license. I haven’t fully exhaled since.

Of course, she wanted to drive her car to school the next morning. I had to stop myself from running down the driveway after her to yell to her one last pearl of wisdom that might keep her safe as she embarked upon this rite of passage into adulthood. “I’m so excited!” she effused.  Me too, I thought, in the nail biting sense of the word. I heard a truck winding up the hill toward the end of our driveway, and I prayed she had her radio dialed down, and her attention up. I made a mental note to cut back the seagrass that was eclipsing part of her view of the approaching truck, and, damn it, the blackberry bush that blocked her view from the left. She waited at the foot of the driveway as the truck sped by, my heart thudding loudly at the back of my throat. Then she entered the highway and disappeared down the road.

I went inside, and sipped a cup of coffee with Lisa as we waited for Michaela to text us that she had arrived safely at school. When she got her license we had asked her, okay, threatened her with permanent loss of her driving privileges, to text us whenever she got to where she was going, a request that had been lost on our son. She has texted us more in the past two weeks than he has texted us in the last three years. And she managed to arrange her high school parking permit without us saying a word to her, while we are still getting fine notices from the school for the year and a half our son never bothered to get a pass. Ding — her text message illuminates our phone screens. “Here.” Exhale.

A couple of days later, Michaela called me at the office around lunch to ask if she could drive to the high school that evening to help the guidance counselor host an open house for a college. I wasn’t crazy about letting her drive at night yet, but I agreed. An hour before she was ready to take her first night solo, I received a weather alert on my phone warning there might be sleet in some areas. I drove her to school that night listening for the sound of sleet pinging against the windshield, but the only ice I encountered was in her sullen silence for having changed my mind. I drove on to a hockey game at Yale, retrieving her on the way home after getting her snarky text to take care not to slide off the slippery road. Like I am in control of the weather alerts. I told her that for her information, I had seen lots of ice in New Haven, which was not a complete fib since I had spent two hours in the Ingells Rink.

The next weekend Lisa pulled out the blackberry bush by hand and I hacked the seagrass down to a nub, burning it in the fire pit.
“Just to be clear: The first time that you fail to text me when you arrive at or leave someplace, you will lose all privileges. You will not be going anywhere for a long time, I am serious.”

This is the first thing that my mother said after congratulating me on passing my driver’s license test a few weeks ago. I get it, I mean if I didn’t understand her at this point it would be concerning. I spent nearly every Saturday night of my first two years of high school listening to my parents agonize over the various tragic deaths that had to have taken my brother. Clearly, there was absolutely NO other logical reason that he didn’t text them to let them know that he had made it to the Sofair’s house (which is approximately two miles from our own). It couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that he was a 17-year-old boy and much like a puppy, he was barely able remember to eat and go to the bathroom, never mind text his parents to let them know he wasn’t “dead in a ditch somewhere.” After about the third time this horrid scene played out, I thought about hacking Caelan’s phone just so I didn’t have to listen to this useless banter. When were they going to learn that unless they were 17-year-old “babes,” they would not be hearing from Caelan? I mean, Really Dad? What did you expect?

Basically any minimal effort I give will be exponentially better than the radio silence that they received from my brother. At least that is what I thought, until the first time I left the house to drive to school and failed to text my parents in the same nanosecond that I moved the gear shift from “D” to “P.” I picked up my phone a few minutes later to three iPhone screen scrolls of notifications from my mom and dad wondering if I made it safely. Jeez. Seriously guys? Chillll.

Besides the fact that these expectations are irrational, they are also unbelievably hypocritical. I understand that you come from the dinosaur ages dad, but learn how to answer your iPhone 7. It’s ridiculous. I am supposed to text you every time I inhale and exhale (which I’m pretty sure defeats the purpose of letting you know that I am safe), but anyway, at the very least, send back a response. So next time I don’t respond quickly enough, maybe you can let me know how your own medicine tastes.

Mike Kerin is a lawyer in Milford, and his daughter, Michaela, is a student at Amity High School. In their column, this father and daughter bicker and banter about boys, curfews, homework, stress at school, dress codes, and a host of other issues that represent the jagged edges of adolescence which they must navigate every day, sometimes with humor, sometimes with sarcasm, always with love.