I Would Drive 2,000 Miles

What do we know about the Proclaimers?

They made a record: they were prepared to walk a long way.

What else do we know?

They didn’t have teenage children.

Because if they did, they wouldn’t have time for some silly fantasy about 500 miles. They’d be too busy. Driving the car: the length and breadth of the country. And every night between Christmas and New Year.

If your children are four and six you should look away now. If the phrase ‘Dad’s taxi’ is still a novelty you may need a stiff drink.

Because, loving parent of sweet angelic child, you are going to be busy. Especially at Christmas. Take Ben to work, collect Ben, drop Tom off, deliver Jessica, now Ben’s going out… The taxi was on duty every night.

But there are even darker forces at work…

This time next year Ben will have offers from universities. ‘Oh wow,’ you cry. ‘Good for him. You must be so proud.’

Well, yes. But it’s like holding your new-born baby: there’s a bit of dirty work to do before you feel all warm and fuzzy.

In Tom’s case the dirty work consisted of trips to Southampton, Loughborough, London (twice) and Cambridge – twice again.

2,650 miles. Eat your heart out, Proclaimers.

And they weren’t day trips either: add five overnight stays. “And no, Dad. I won’t share a room with you.”

I’ll leave someone else to count the cost of the petrol, the accommodation and the wretched Costa coffee on the motorways.

Jessica, bless her, stayed closer to home. Apart from the trip to Portsmouth…

So sometime over the next six months we’ll be sitting our youngest son down and having an expensive discussion.

“Before you apply you need to have a look at a few places…”

“There’s a course at Aberdeen. And one I like the look of at Exeter…”

That’s not what you want to hear. So what can you do about it? Back to your angelic four year old: may I suggest a bedtime story?

The children wandered into the dark, cold forest. The Forest of Exeter. Suddenly a terrible giant leapt out. ‘I’m Aberdeen,’ he bellowed. ‘And these are my evil henchmen: Kent, Stirling and Aberystwyth.’

You see? No point being married to a psychologist for 20 years unless you learn something along the way.

Because otherwise, you’re in trouble. You take your children to visit universities when they’re exactly the wrong age: the age when you’re the last person on earth they want to speak to.

Take those 2,650 miles with Tom. Allowing for towns, tailbacks and contraflows let’s guess at 50mph on average. That’s 53 hours in the car. 53 hours trying to make conversation with a teenager who doesn’t want to.

“Had any more thoughts about your first choice?”

“Not really.”

“Want to run through a few possible interview questions?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Any advice on what to wear?”

He doesn’t even bother to reply.

“Any advice I can give you about girls?” No, I don’t say it. But I’m tempted. If I’m going to talk to myself I may as well be entertained.

And this Wednesday we go again. The 400 mile round trip to Cambridge. But we’ve made progress in the last five years. Football’s good for sixty or seventy miles. Clinton vs. Trump might take care of the contraflow.

But then I’ll put my foot in it. I can’t help it. I have to play the ‘helpful Dad’ card.

“How’s your project going? Remind me what it is again.”

“Complex air flows in the vortex caused by a front wing.”

“Right. Good. Let me know if I can help…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

Comments

  1. Love this post! It just shows what I have in store – I was determined to not let my 13 year old turn me into a taxi… I didn’t factor all this in!!

    • Morning, he said groggily, having yet again been camped outside a hotel ridiculously late on a Friday night… http://bit.ly/1Xr5Nik You’re doomed, Nadine: moving into the centre of town might help, but once you hear the dread word “party” it’s all downhill. Best of luck with it – enjoy your weekend, even if you are on taxi duty!

  2. sarahmo3w says:

    I thought driving my daughter to the theatre every day for three weeks for rehearsals, plus three times a week for five weeks for performances was bad enough! I’ll be going through this with my son in three years and I’m assuming from what I read here that he still won’t want to conduct an actual conversation with words in the car. I can’t wait!

  3. Izzie Anderton says:

    I can’t imagine how it feels to embark on uni visits for a third time and hope that you’ve stashed a few wine bottles as consolation for long days out. I want to kick myself every time I think about one daughter being 250 miles away from home and the other, 125 miles in the opposite direction. How did we get here I wonder?

    • Yep, should have pointed them in the same direction, Izzie. A nice Bath/Bristol combination. Tom will settle in the Brackley/Oxford area: Beloved Daughter daughter plans to stay in Sheffield – so odds-on that Ben will decide to apply to Glasgow…

  4. suzanne3childrenandit says:

    I’m in this phase, or at least teetering on the edge of it. I’ve certainly reached the part where my 15 year old daughter does not wish to discuss anything with me! We are all about the sixth form choices at the moment. The universities can stay a long way off….for now!

    • Best of luck with it, Suzanne. I’ll freely admit that I found the time my daughter was around 15 very tough; two really difficult years. And I absolutely empathise: “We need to talk about your sixth form options.” “Yeah yeah, whatever. I’m just going out…”

  5. That’s it, I’m disowning the kids NOW!

    The Proclaimers were lightweights, anyway. 500 miles? The Pretenders with their 2000 Miles were much more like it.

  6. Aww bless you

  7. You are definitely a big softy. My kids soon learnt that a student railcard was a great asset, and there’s nothing wrong with subtle, subliminal encouragement to go to a uni within 100 miles from home. It has many benefits for both parties

    • Not a softie today! Set off on 400 mile round trip to take him back and the damn car heater stopped working after 20 miles. It was like being back in my first car Nearly had to wrap myself in Tom’s coursework notes to keep warm…

  8. Such a clever analogy. I am wondering if I am lucky having one child but fear that her time spent getting ready may outweigh this benefit!

    • Thanks for the comment, Nicky. Yep, daughters are a special case – you may need to prepare your husband for this conversation http://bit.ly/TSnsi0 And I think dads are always extra protective re their daughters. I always make sure she’s OK when she comes in just as I’m getting up…

  9. We’ve got this to look forward to. The oldest is 15, so those long drives are a couple of years away.

    This was the first year of picking up after a New Year’s party though.

    Did I go out on New Year’s eve you say? Yes I did. In the car. At 1am. For about 15 minutes.

    Happy New Year!

    • What got me this year, John, was all three of them going out. You couldn’t really relax and have a drink as five minutes later you’d be in the car. Absolute bliss on New Year’s Eve though – both boys went to parties in the same village & slept over. Taxi back in the garage by 9pm… And thank you; happy new year to you and the family.

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