18 More Nights

My youngest one, Michelle, the one who is headed to college in approximately 18 nights including this one which is about over, and I ate dinner at the Players Retreat tonight over by NC State.  The PR is an old Raleigh haunt – I went there in college.  Great food.  Good service.  Sort of a know you by your name hangout.  The atmosphere makes the summer flies bearable. 

We had a great dinner with an appropriately attentive waitress.  Our conversation ranged from spring rods and curtains for the college dorm “closet” to recanting old day camp cheers that she might be able to recycle tomorrow at work as a youth counselor at the downtown YMCA.

When we got home, I plunked out the melody of a few tunes, and she casually sang along.  She has a beautiful voice.  At one point, I moved to the den to pay the VISA bill, and she practiced a song we’re trying to convince her to sing at our wedding later this year.  I held it together when she walked through the room, but had she checked the credit card statement, it would have been damp.  I sure am going to miss that voice in the house.

I’m not sure which of us has the most angst about her going away, the kid who is headed to UNC or the parent who is watching her grow up.

It seems so surreal.  Poof.  All three of them are grown. 

I saw a commercial yesterday with a father holding his kid on his shoulder.  For some reason the baby’s onesie caught my eye.  I have held that same child, in that same outfit, in that same position, and in my mind not so long ago.

I try to convince myself it won’t be different – she’s only 30 minutes away.  I don’t see her that much when she lives here full time.  Things won’t change.

They will to some extent.  They are supposed to.  They are supposed to for her.  They are supposed to for me.

I am happy in my soul for Michelle.  I am excited for her.  The world is her oyster!  The future is bright for us all.

But for the next three weeks, I think I might just lament a bit.

Sunday Post 158: A Precarious Balance

I was at lunch today with some of Lisa’s girlfriends.  They check in on me periodically to make sure I’m not totally screwing up.  And lord knows, I need the help!

We started talking about kids and how easy it is to get frustrated with them.  It seems like they’re always mucking something up:  forgetting their homework, making a mess, being unappreciate, talking back when we ask them to do something.  Un, I do not like that one.

It also seems like we’re always on their butts.  That has to get old – for the parents who used to be enamored with your every move, to now harp on you incessantly, pointing out everything you’re not doing right.

Clearly, some of the corrections are necessary.  Without them, kids end up running a muck and that makes for disaster.  I’ve written about families where the kids are in charge – and it ain’t pretty.

But I wonder, as a parent, if I do enough to encourage my daughters, letting them know that I do notice the good, that I am proud of them – that my love is unconditional.

At night, I sometimes share with them all of the things I think are great about them.  Since it is something we do at least once a month, Stephanie will sometimes prompt me, “Dad, tell me again 15 things you like about me.”

“That is so easy baby!”  I then proceed to quickly spout off what makes her so dag-gone special to me.

Every day I remind them, verbally, that I love them.  I work to compliment them when I think they look especially pretty (although in my eyes, they always look especially pretty), reminding them that if no one else thinks they’re beautiful, one guy does.

DJ is 16 and doesn’t particularly love a bunch of mushy stuff.  But I tell her too.  And I’ll still be telling her when she’s 50, and I’m 82.

Her room looks like an atom bomb went off in it.  Drives me nuts.  I shut the door.  Leave her shoes in the den?  I’ll complain.  But I’m not going to nag about the little stuff.  I had the upstairs doors replaced last year and so looking at the back side of hers is quite pleasant.  She’s making good grades, she’s pretty respectful, she has learned to communicate her whereabouts well – those are the things I’m most concerned about.

If they cross the line on important issues, there will be repercussions.  But I’m working hard not to sweat the small stuff.

I don’t want them to remember their time with me as combative.  I want them to remember that I love them.  I want them to remember the things I think they’re really good at.

Every night I go into their rooms individually, and we pray.  And each night I ask God to help them make good decisions.  I’m half way talking to God and half way talking to them.  If you’ve heard that prayer 3,695 times as a kid, perhaps when some significant decision comes your way, you’ll think before you do something really stupid.

It’s all about balance – love and acceptance on one side and boundaries on the other.

I hope I can manuever that precarious position cause it’s really hard to do.

The Cost of having a Driver

car insurance
I recently called my insurance agent to see how much it was going to cost to add DJ, my new driver, to the insurance policy.  Ouch!
The receptionist told me she could give me the quotes.
“I think I might give my daughter my car and purchase a new one for myself.  How much will my insurance increase if I go that route?”
“Let’s see Mr. Tanner.   Humm – it’s going to jump a bit since she’s an inexperienced driver.”
“Oh, she’s not inexperienced.  I’ve driven countless miles with her over the past year.  It’s been weeks since she got out of the car without forgetting to turn it off.  Heck, I even taught her how to take off the gas cap.  Took two or three times for her to fully catch on, but, she’s mastered it now.  Even got her first wreck out of the way – and that was in the Driver’s Ed Car!  She is NOT inexperienced.”
“We’ll, you do have your homeowners insurance with us.  That will help.”
“Yes I do!  And, remember I went to high school with the agent’s brother.”
“Looks like its going to go up by… $2,200.”
“$2,200 a year?  Damn Sam, that’s steep!”
“Oh no Mr. Tanner – it’s not $2,200 a year.”
“Whew!  I thought something had to be wrong.”
“Yes.  That’s wrong. You see, you pay twice a year.  That’s just for six months.  It’ll end up being $4,400 a year.”
“I’m sorry.  I thought I had asked for a quote to add one tiny, sweet, cautious human to my car insurance policy NOT what it was going to cost me to put her through a year of college!!!”
“Pardon?”
“You are an evil woman.”
Things I could do with $4,400:
  •  Fly to Hong Kong with DJ and stay at the Ritz Carlton for two nights
  • Buy 1/4 of a camel in Pakistan
  • Get DJ a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle GLS with halogen projector beam headlamps including clear polycarbonate lenses
  • Purchase 25 bottles of Dom Parignon and cater a party for 100 people to come over and drink it
  • Hire a hit man to take out my insurance agent

Needless to say, we’re considering other options…

Sunday Post 124: On-the-job Training

This is it.  We got up early so we could beat the line at the Jacksonville, NC, DMV.  DJ turned 16 while we were no vacation, and we couldn’t wait two more days to get back to Raleigh.  So, this morning we drove 45 minutes to the nearest town to see if she could take the test that will push her toward total independence.

The kid in line before us slinked out of the glass room with his head down low.

“I failed,” he told his dad.  “The guy said I drove 33 in a 55 mile per hour zone.  I actually went too slow.”

Dear God above, please let DJ go too slow too.  Please, please.

I assume He can perform miracles, but DJ driving slowly may even be beyond His capabilities.

She returned from the road test with a Cheshire Cat grin on her face.  I knew my fate.

When we returned to the beach house, she announced she would be driving her sisters to lunch in Surf City, 20 minutes away.

“I’m hungry too,” I pleaded.

“We’ll bring you some back.”

My parting words were:  “I want all of my children back here, in one piece!”

“I’m with her,” Stephanie assured me.  “She won’t do anything crazy with me in the car.”

I didn’t feel any better.

Now they are gone, and I am here – alone.  I put my phone by my chair and turned the sound up high, just in case they need me.

Damn, this is sort of scary.  I think she’s a pretty cautious driver, but she’s young and inexperienced.  Oh, and the woman in line behind us at the DMV who was excited she was finally getting the breathalizer off her ignition is presumable back on the road this afternoon.

I can’t help but ponder the hours we’ve spent in my car together.  There were the Barney years in the minivan.  I could sing every word to every one of that purple dinosaur’s tunes.  There was the first time she weighed enough to sit in the front seat.  And three years ago when I was thrown into the role of primary carpooler for the Tanner family.

Although a relief to know I’ll no longer speed through town working to pick up all three girls at the exact same hour, I surely will miss our conversations.  We’ve wept, shared our dreams and yelled at the top of our voices in that car.  But mainly, we’ve laughed – laughed and laughed and laughed.

Somehow those gray leather seats bring out the best in us.  The ability to divulge our inner most thoughts made so much easier when sitting side-by-side.  I think it’s the lack of eye contact.

This whole growing up stuff is going to take some getting used to.  I fear that DJ isn’t the only one in this house who is figuring out how to become an adult.  There’s a 47-year-old who’s also getting some on-the-job grown up training right now.

Driver’s License, here we come!

license

At the end of this month, DJ gets her license.  I’m feeling pretty good about her driving.  As I coach her, she often reminds me that she is not stupid.  I remind her that I have driven for thirty years and that it is my side of the car that is facing the mac truck she could potentially pull in front of.  It goes like this:

“Don’t pull out yet.”

“There is a huge orange truck coming our way!  Do you think I’m stupid?”

“I’m just reminding you.  Remember, you don’t know the inner beltline from your innie belly button.”

“That’s directions!  That’s different!”

She says she hates to drive, but that she can’t wait to get in a car without me.  I told her that hurt my feelings.  I don’t think she cared.

My concern has moved from unsafe driving to some basics that I think might hold her back.

She cannot, will not, just refuses to remember to turn the lights off when she stops the car at night.  The automatic bell rings as a reminder.  It does not help.

“DJ, don’t you hear the ringing?  It’s not a doorbell!  It is a reminder to either take your keys out of the ignition or turn off your lights.”

“When I was a kid, I learned to tune that ding out.  It means nothing to me.”

I called Acura, “Is there a way to switch the gentle bell ringing reminder to a nice, loud elephant call?”  Apparently there is not.

I told her today as she drove by the second missed turn on our way back to our beach house, “One day I’m gonna send you to the grocery store and you’re going to end up in Ft. Lauderdale.”

“About Georgia I would realized I had missed a turn,” she snipped.

But the end all – be all occurred Monday night when the two of us were driving back from the grocery store at Ocean Isle Beach.

“Can we stop for ice cream dad?”

“Yeah, but don’t tell your sisters.”

As we pulled into the parking place, she quickly opened the door and headed into the parlor.  I sat in disbelief.  Not only had she forgotten to turn the lights out, not only had she left the keys in the car, she had left them in the ignition.  And, the car was still running!”

“Hey DJ,” I yelled.  “You forgot something.”

“I didn’t hear the bell.”

“There wasn’t one.  The MDX thought you were still driving – because you hadn’t turned him off!!”

I can see it now.  I’m at home, comfy in my chair watching the evening news.   Brrrring, Brrrring –

“Hello?   DJ.  You’re out of gas?  Where did you drive?  Just to the mall?  It’s only five minutes from the house.

What?  You’ve been there three hours and you never turned off the car?”

Is it stealing if the keys are still in it and the car is left on?  I can hear the thief now.

“Your Honor.  I thought she was giving it to me.  The key was in the ignition and the car was running.  She even left the seat warmer on.  Looked like a gift to me.”

Good lord above, please help me.

 

Cowabunga!

Posted by Danny

I’m not sure if there was ever a time in history where a parent was considered cool by their teenager. I got along well with my parents and usually enjoyed being with them, but I don’t think I would have ever considered them cool – especially not when I was in high school.

I distinctly remember a trip to K-Mart as a teen. Not only was I mortified to be in that store, it was not a cool place to hang out in 1979, but I was also there with my parents. At one point when they couldn’t find me, they began to call my name in unison, “Danny, Danny Tanner, where are you?”

If I’d had a sword I would have jabbed it through my jugular. I’m still scarred by that moment in time.

Now it is my turn!  I get to be the parent of a least one teenager for the next decade.

I don’t desire to be the coolest parent around; you won’t find me hosting parties for my kids with kegs of beer that I’ve purchased. You also won’t find me sloughing off curfew or looking the other way when a “C” shows up on the report card. But I am striving to find ways to connect with my rising sophomore.

On our recent beach trip, DJ asked me if we could rent a surf board. My initial instinct was that her request was ridiculous. Neither one of us would ever be able to surf, and I was sure she’d be frustrated and done with it after rental day 1.

But a little voice inside my head told me to “shut up.” It told me to take this opportunity to connect with my kid and potentially rack up some cool points (I think I have negative 645 currently). So I bit.

What I gained in coolness in renting the board, I apparently lost when I tried to start talking like a surfer.

“Dude, I’m really amped about surfing. I hope we have some epic waves.” I used a surfer accent.

As we drove up to the rental shop, DJ jumped out of the van.

“Hang loose chic, I gotta get my wallet.”

“Dad, you’re such a dork.”

The owner told us the rental for three days would be $35. He then gave us a bar of wax.

“Sick DJ. We have our own wax.”

Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.

When we got back to the beach, I’m fairly sure I looked pretty darn cool walking along the shore carrying my board. But that’s when the coolness stopped.

DJ went first, she’d done this before. She paddled out on her belly, then sat up like a champ.

“DJ – there’s a gnarly wave coming your way! But look out for gray suits (I’d been on line, that means sharks).”

She tried several times but couldn’t stand up.

“That was bitchin’,” I thought I’d earn points by throwing in a cuss word – she is 15. “Now watch this.”

I paddled out and worked to sit up, my legs thrown across each side of the board. It took less than a second for the entire board and 46-year-old surfer to do a 180. Not front to back but right side up to upside down. My hair was brushing against sea shells, my feet above water.

I wondered if this could be considered a wipe out.

I tried again.  This time I swear my head brushed up against a sting ray.

“DJ, I think you should practice some more.  I’m going to go check on the boogers (boogie board riders).”  Thank goodness I have other children.

DJ surprised me.  She stuck to it and surfed multiple times each day.  I even got to the point where I could sit, with my head OUT of the water and even attempted to stand up a couple of times.

I think we’re less Hawaii 5 – 0 and more Gidget.  But who cares, we had a great time and spent hours chilling together!  Maybe I’ll say yes more often.

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