Errands for my mom? No problem. Pick up five friends and stuff them into the car? No problem. Midnight runs from college to Chinatown? Who doesn’t love beef chow fun at 3 a.m.?
When I moved to Manhattan, I still kept my car, moving it from side to side to avoid tickets or random break-ins. City or country, rain, sleet or snow, it was always time for a road trip to go apple picking or to pick up friends far and wide. What’s a potential fender bender when there’s a concert across state lines?
And then, I moved to the suburbs. Where you drive to your mailbox. Where you drive to the gym to walk on the treadmill. Where a cup of sugar is not next door but a 10-minute trip to the store. Where the miles on your car—and life—seem to fly by.
At first, tree-lined lanes and speed-hump streets seemed so quaint. Until you’ve gone over that hump morning, noon and night. To pick up the kids. To take them to school. To drop them off at soccer. To transport them from place to place, time and again.
“Dad, please pick me up at 5 from practice, then take Julie home. And then I need index cards from Staples. And may I get Panera for dinner? I love the Frontega Chicken.”
“Dad, after you pick me up on Main Street, will you drop me off at Lisa’s house, come back in about two hours and then we can go to the gym? By the way, can Deanna come to the gym with us? She’ll be waiting for us in her driveway.”
“Dad, I forgot my sweater at Lindsey’s house. Will you swing by and pick it up for me when you’re coming back from Home Depot? Also, Mom’s making salmon. Any chance you can swing by Panera ’cause you know I hate salmon? Love you, Daddy.”
A perpetual state of vehicular motion…and that’s just one kid driving you nuts. Multiply that by two, three, four kids and you have parents waving to each other from different sides of the road. Forget intimacy. Forget the comforts of a soft couch. Mom and dad are road warriors, battling the elements and advancing age for passengers on the cusp of puberty.
I am proud to be a good dad…but when did I become Uber-dad? Was it a box I checked on my kid’s birth certificate? A lifetime agreement to be just a text away at any given moment? Always in overdrive, driving my kids left and right, north and south. Complimentary door-to-door service for teens in transit.
Uber-dad? More like Uber-schmuck. (Think positive…Uber-mensch.)
If music, information and conversation are always within their texting fingers, why not have Dad and Mom on livery speed dial? Instant gratification means dad can be there in an instant. Forget the conference calls; you can do those from the front seat of your car as you race toward school pick-up. It’s multitasking for the suburban multitudes.
And it’s my fault. I admit it. I brought my children up where sidewalks are few and far between. I wanted trees and grass, acreage and fresh air. An overpriced patchwork quilt in my little patch of heaven.
No more endless honking unless it’s geese flying south. Give me the open air and open road of roadside vegetable stands. But in running from city congestion, I ran straight to the gas pump. Filling up my hours by filling up the car.
I have led my children to believe every road starts and ends at home. No distance is too far, no excursion too exhausting. Weekend tournaments? A hop, skip and jump on the Interstate. Friday night movies? Parents can always watch their movie on Netflix.
It’s constant juggling: which parents are dropping off and which are picking up. Instead of banter with lifelong friends over sushi, you’re negotiating with someone’s parent about time and place. Dylan’s dad gets more of your time than your own dad.
And don’t get me started on those parents who take a virtual U-turn every time it’s their turn to join the suburban motorcade. The ones who discreetly drop their kids off in your driveway without a beep or a glance. Who steer clear of shepherding the local flock of kids so they can make haste to get wasted at some local wine bar.
“Haley’s mom isn’t able to drive.” “Haley’s dad is out-of-town.” “Haley’s nanny doesn’t work on Wednesdays.”
And why should they be available? Especially when Uber-daddy is on his way.