The text messages are always straight and to the point.
“Can you come at 10?”
Sure, I respond. After all, I’m on call. I know the text is coming. I know the next one is too.
“Can we take (friend’s name) home?”
Sure is again my reply.
My 14-year-old is a socially active freshman, and I am the personal Uber driver for her and her friends.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I want my children to know that they can count on me. I need them to believe they’re not inconveniencing me, even if their evening plans sometimes keep me dressed and ready to go a little later than I might’ve wanted.
I’ve heard it through the grapevine they even enjoy it when I’m driving. Apparently, I’m funny sometimes. I’m told they enjoy hearing some of my stories.
I believe they just want an adult to talk to them like an adult, to see how that normal interaction feels. That’s so much easier to get when you’re talking with teens who don’t share your last name.
Many interactions with my own children devolve into chore lists: This is what we need to do. This is what the schedule says is happening. This is how we’re going to accomplish it all.
Chatting with my daughter and her friends is more wide open. Sometimes we talk about religion. Sometimes we talk about dumb things we’ve done. Sometimes we talk about the news of the day.
Sometimes I don’t talk at all. We just crank up the music, and they try to talk over it.
I’ve gotten to know their personalities. One giggles at everything anyone says, unless she’s feeling down. Another is always worried about what other people think. Yet another carefully navigates the landmines of conversation, wanting to fit. One mentions the names of boys an awful lot. Another loves to share stories from what she reads on social media.
These interactions are comforting to me. They help me see what kind of people my daughter chose as her peer group. Thus far, I haven’t heard anything objectionable from any of them.
By no means am I alone or a saint in this endeavor. The other girls’ parents and my wife do their share of lugging the kids around too. I hope they get the same things out of it that I do, an unfiltered insight into what’s going on in their brains and what’s happening in their lives.
I’ll keep offering to drive, like I did Saturday night when I agreed to take my daughter and her friends to their high school’s playoff football game about half an hour from our home. It’s really no trouble, I tell the other parents. I enjoy it.
I know the time is limited on these carpools. Soon they’ll all be driving, and they won’t need me in the driver’s seat anymore. They’ll have their independence, and I’ll have my quiet evenings at home in comfy clothes wondering what they’re talking about.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.