Really Dad? Planning for spontaneity

Michaela

In my 17 years I have noted that people tend to believe that spontaneity is a favorable attribute, something to seek in a friend or spouse. In reality, it is an atrocious character flaw. I simply cannot wrap my head around why this trait would be alluring to anyone.

My family is one of the most “spontaneous” groups of people you could find. From deciding on a whim one Thursday afternoon to grab the grandparents and drive 1,200 miles to Florida, to missing the class party on my 100th day of kindergarten because six inches of fresh powder were sitting atop Magic Mountain waiting to be carved by my family’s skis, little room is left for solid plans in the Kerin household. This is laughable considering 50% of the family is comprised of control freaks whose lives revolve around devising and executing meticulous plans.

A prime example of this “spontaneity” can be seen in the literal last-minute cancellation of a trip to one of my top schools. Ironically, my mother and I had planned the trip on Columbus Day weekend, months in advance. I say “ironically” because as already noted we rarely make actual plans in my family; so predictably, the one time we bought plane tickets weeks, rather than hours, before our flight, we ended up deferring the trip.

I was awakened the morning of our departure by my parents’ loud chattering in the hallway. They must have heard my covers ruffle because seconds later my dad whipped my door open, flicked on my light, and started talking to me at a normal volume and speed as if I’d been awake for hours.

Really Dad?

He proceeded to explain that due to “dangerous weather” my mom and I were not going to fly and we were instead going to visit schools in Connecticut.

Somehow our college weekend turned into a quick swing through Storrs (the location of the University of Connecticut) followed by an overnight at a lake house in the middle of nowhere. The A frame is owned by the second craziest man I know, my dad earning the distinction of first place in that category, namely Tom, one of my dad’s best friends.

Although I was not overly excited about the change of plans, that weekend was amazing. We sat on the porch for hours singing along to Taylor Swift songs (yes, the “we” includes my dad and Tom who were jamming out to T-Swizzle, and I have video-proof of it). We ate delicious Polish food that people who live across the lake brought over in their boat. We danced on the porch until we nearly lit our hair on fire in the tiki torches lighting the deck. We even saw a mythical sea creature emerge from the eerie lake waters which, as it turns out, was really just one of Tom and Sarah’s neighbors sneaking up to the dock on his paddle board. We ended the night by diving into the dark freezing water.

Sometimes I guess the best things in life really are those that we could never plan for.

Michael

Plans change fast for the Kerins.  When you spend your summers living on a boat and your winters skiing you are always subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature. You have to develop a little fluidity in your plans. Sometimes going with the flow means you have to suddenly unpack a truck full of sweaters and ski gear, and repack it with bathing suits and sunscreen, when there’s a forecast for a week of rain up north. These minor deviations, okay 1,200 mile detours, are occasionally a necessary evil.

So Michaela was not pleased when we were obliged to nix her trip down to New Orleans because Hurricane Nate was barreling through the Caribbean with its sights set on the Big Easy. As a consolation prize, I thought we could look at some schools in New England, even though Michaela had vowed not to go to a school her parents could drive to in one day. My buddy, Tom, had, coincidentally, invited us to stay with him on an island at Lake Williams, about 12 miles from U Conn.

She was unimpressed as we drove through the rolling farmland of Northeastern Connecticut that morphed into a bustling campus of 32,000 students. But incredibly, she ran into two friends who were originally, like Michaela, reluctant applicants, but whose unbridled enthusiasm for their new home was apparently contagious as Michaela was beaming by the time we drove away from the campus.

Tom and his 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, met us at the dock on the mainland in their motorboat so they could ferry us out to the island as the sun slid behind the trees across the lake, lighting up the sky in a raspberry sherbet swirl that seemed to brighten defiantly before surrendering to nightfall. Four neighbors arrived in a pontoon boat, joining our impromptu party on Tom’s porch, as Taylor Swift blared from a speaker and the five girls started to shake, shake, shake to her sick beat. At one point someone ghosted across the lake, his paddle board all but invisible, just another neighbor approaching.

The next morning, the four of us, plus Tom’s Lab, piled into a canoe whose bottom sloshed with an alarming amount of water. We all tried to squeeze our bottoms onto the aluminum braces that clamped the sides of the boat together, but whenever Tom turned the little electric motor one way or the other the canoe tipped precariously. We had to lower our center of gravity and quickly. Michaela must have sensed that I was going to enlist her as a volunteer because she threw a beach towel onto the floorboards, then more or less nudged me off of the aluminum strut onto towel. “Thanks, dad,” she giggled. My jeans stayed dry but only for the few seconds that it took before the towel was fully soaked.

We said goodbye and headed south on 395 toward New London until Mickey announced there was a better likelihood of her going to school on Mars, so we spun around and pointed north toward Boston.

I wish that kid would stick to a plan, just once.

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.

Really Dad? Planning for spontaneity

Really Dad? The Adventure: Looking at Colleges

The Adventure: Looking at Colleges

Michaela

If you are like most of my friends, you had your first, second, and third dream colleges, along with safeties, memorized since you were a freshman. However if you’re like me, when someone asked where you were looking, you spontaneously chose names that rolled off of your tongue like “Quinnipiac” or something that matched your outfit like “Brown,” until you actually looked at schools and formulated an idea of what you were looking for.

In April, my parents took me on a five day college road trip. My mom and I had planned the trip months before, scheduling tours at several schools in Delaware, D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina. We made sure to coordinate our agenda in such a way that we would have time for a guided tour of each school with extra time to explore the campuses on our own.  Well, we certainly had extra time to explore as we successfully missed every single tour that we had scheduled. My dad likes to blame me for missing the tours, claiming that my inability to get dressed and ready quickly was the ultimate cause of our tardiness at the schools. However, if we didn’t have to circle around the parking lot of our hotels four times every morning while the dinosaur learned how to use his “iPhone GPS”  we may have had a better chance of making it to a tour on time.

Surprisingly, making it to the schools was the easy part: maneuvering through the campuses while attempting to pretend that the weird, tall guy in the bright orange shorts and the fur-lined crocs was not my father was the harder part. It only got worse when he opened his mouth. One morning, we arrived at the University of Virginia, late of course, where hundreds of people spilled out of a huge auditorium, but somehow the three of us managed to cram into a nook in the vestibule. After a few moments of looking around and sizing up everyone, my dad turned to me with a mischievous grin and not-so-quietly remarked: “Hey, I’m pretty confident that I am the coolest dad in this room right now. I mean, look at me!” Come on dad, I would like to say that there was a time when the “Hairless Potter glasses” and  hiked up-shorts were in, but Mom assures me there was never such a time.

After missing our tour and latching onto someone else’s already over-crowded tour in progress, we wanted to get a quick bite to eat on the patio of a Georgetown café overlooking the Potomac.. After waiting for nearly 45 minutes, my dad asked me what I ordered, insinuating that my order caused the delay.

“A quesadilla and a salad.” I answered.

“Quesadilla. That means ‘house of the day’ in Spanish. Casa día.”

No Urkel, not even close.  Really Dad?

 

Michael

“Dad, can you please not yell: ‘Hey Mick, are you okay?’ when I don’t come out of the bathroom instantly?” my daughter pleaded as we walked into the lobby of the Walt Whitman rest stop of the New Jersey Turnpike.  Like I’m some kind of over-protective weirdo.  We were on our way home from our college tour through some of the Southern Atlantic colleges on the Thursday before Easter.  I hit the men’s room, shuffled around the lobby watching the steady progression of humanity flow through the rest stop, thinking it was not a safe place to linger.  I poked my head into the foyer of the ladies’ room, if that’s even the correct name anymore, and shouted: “Hey Mick, you okay?”  More than a couple sets of eyeballs glared at me.

Someone from the recesses of the bathroom yelled “Freak!” although I couldn’t tell whether it was Michaela.. Usually, I just enlist the assistance of a good Samaritan to wander in and ask if there is a Michaela in the bathroom, but with the irritated looks I was getting from the potential volunteers, I  had no choice but to call again, “Mick?”

“You freak show, dad,” was the hoarse whisper that was unmistakably my daughter. .Now I could relax.

Like all the best laid plans, our meticulously “Mapquested” adventure was doomed from the get-go by a combination of factors that conspired against us.  We missed our official Georgetown tour because of DC’s tangled traffic, but managed to merge inconspicuously (or so I thought) with a tour already in progress.  The ebullient guide interrupted her canned spiel when she spied our arrival saying: “Welcome. Glad you could join us!”  I fought off the urge to introduce ourselves as the Griswold family, but my little Audrey, I mean Michaela, was already looking for a large rock to crawl under, so I settled for a dorky wave.

We missed the American University tour later that afternoon because of a lackadaisical waiter.  No great loss because as soon as we rolled onto campus Michaela crossed the school off her list.  “How did you spend two years here, Dad?”  I wondered the same thing as we sliced southwest across Virginia to Charlottesville where we checked into a hotel three mile from the campus of the next school, confident we would be on time for our 8:30 am tour the following morning.

Wrong again.  Despite my repeated entreaties to coax my girl out of the hotel, I couldn’t end the fashion show in front of the mirror quickly enough.  My stylish daughter was one of the last prospective students to saunter into the UVA amphitheater, where the Dean of Admissions reminded us that in 16 months we would be saying goodbye to our daughter as she embarked on her academic journey.  I could feel Michaela looking up at me, reading my thoughts, as she looped her arm through mine, oblivious to the crowd of her peers surrounding us.

Really Dad? TV

Really Dad? 16

Michael
For the first seven or eight years of Michaela’s life, we did not subscribe to cable, and the only entertainment we played on our 12 inch television screen consisted of Blockbuster videos and the occasional recorded VCR tapes of American Idol that Lisa’s mom would mail up from Alabama because of her growing concern that our kids were being culturally deprived by not knowing who Kelly Clarkson or Adam Lambert were. My idea was that the kids could not miss something they never experienced. I dreampt that the kids would be hunkered down in their rooms transported to exotic places by Jules Verne and Daniel Defoe, their journeys limited only by their imaginations.

What a long slide down the slippery slope since that Super Bowl weekend years ago when I sprang for a whopping 24 inch screen and plugged in cable. “The Bachelor”? Really Michaela? Who watches that contrived nonsense about some two-time loser playing tonsil hockey with 30 women, agonizing over who goes home and who gets a rose? Michaela and my wife, that’s who. So unless I want to sit by myself in the living room reading a book, I have to listen to Nick the nitwit philosophize about whether the third time will be a charm. Thank God, after bedding three of the contestants, one before the show began and two during the climax of the season, he was able to select his soul mate. Now if he can only find his soul.

Ever since my son left for college a couple of years ago, I have been consistently out-numbered whenever there is a vote for a television program. So I am relegated to watching chick flicks like “This is Us” or “Vampire Diaries”. If I try to watch something a little more hard-hitting like NCIS, my wife will boycott the show claiming there is too much violence. And if I turn on “48 Hours” or “20/20” Michaela will storm out of the den horrified that I am so absorbed by these redundant murder mysteries.

On the increasingly rare weekend nights that Michaela graces us with her presence, I crank up the wood stove, and scan the latest movies available “On Demand” while simultaneously checking the “Rotten Tomatoes” rating on my I Phone. Apparently it annoys Michaela that, unlike her, I don’t just pick movies by how cute their title is (how did “Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakquel” work out?) but I have found some real gems that way. It is not my fault that these movies usually are not spoken in English.

There is hope for us: last night we watched a Planet Earth Two episode and loved it. It was Mother Nature’s version of “The Bachelor” in which male komoto dragons fight ferociously over their mutual girlfriend until one of the giant lizards is wrestled into submission, the winner earning his rose. Who would have thought that two reptiles slapping each other silly with their tails could restore harmony in the household? And happily, unlike our friend Nick, the Bachelor, these lizards mate for life.

Michaela
Most nights, after we have finished dinner, my family unwinds watching a one hour T.V. show in the living room. This means that we all have to agree upon which OnDemand show we will play each evening. You would think that with a social worker and a lawyer as parents, coming to any sort of compromise would be a breeze. You would think wrong. My mother, the tender and loving hand that guides her clients to a middle ground day in and day out, is ruthless. And my dad, a man literally paid to negotiate, is like a toddler fighting over a toy. My mom pulls the “I never get to sit down and watch with you guys, can we please watch something I enjoy this once.” Interesting. After following several seasons of “The Voice” per her request, I would have guessed that we watched it more times than “this once.” Then the whining begins in my other ear, “Mick, I’ve had a very stressful day, I just want to relax.” Well jeez, with this level of exasperation coming from a man that has been a top ten World Champion Duathlete twice, my advice is to never become self-employed because if everyday is that trying, it can’t be worth it. He just wants to watch “Cool Cool LJ” as he calls it. Which, in my father’s language, translates to his favorite cop show, NCIS: Los Angeles, featuring the actor LL Cool J. Really Dad? You could at least make an effort to say the name right.
Now that you have the teams, I’ll give you the play-by-play. Dad’s move first: he waits, silently pouting, until we announce that we will be watching my choice, “The Bachelor” and then he pounces. First complaining, followed by a threat to go to bed, roping mom in for the defensive move. Mom comes in, guns blazing, frustrated that we can’t come to an agreement. First, she yells at dad for not spending time with the family, then it’s my fault, “You knew he was going to do this, let’s just watch his stupid show so he’ll be happy.” Then dad with the assist, “Yeah Mick, come on!” The crowd goes wild: dad wins yet again! This defeat would probably be much more disappointing if my dad wasn’t going to fall asleep in about 20 minutes.
…4…3…2… “This is The Voice!” Sleep tight daddy.

Really Dad? Land of the Free

Michaela

When I walked into school the morning after Donald Trump was announced the President-elect, it was for lack of better words, a crap show. After wading through the hallways of quicksand that seemed to weigh down my peers, I entered the classroom of one of my teachers whom I respect immensely. I sat down in my seat across the room from her, shocked to see that she was crying. She sat like a child, grasping tissues and shaking as the sobs rippled through her body. Then I looked up at the smart board in the front of the classroom. On it, in bold font, was a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I interpreted it to be an ominous message from a despondent Cassius, who was contemplating his own suicide as a means to escape Caesar’s tyranny.

Really, dad? Why all the hysteria? The problem is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, or any of the polarized demographic/social classifications that the media has created to separate us: Hispanics, African Americans, educated whites, uneducated whites, pro-life, pro-choice, gay, straight, pro-guns, anti-guns. The problem in America is that all of these categories have been emphasized so much by the media that we forget we are all Americans. The media loves to stick these labels on us that by definition separate us rather than focusing on things that bring us together as Americans.

However you may have arrived in America, you live in the “Land of the Free.” Americans are blessed to live in a nation as promising and successful as this one. So whether or not your candidate won, we have to embrace the results and be grateful to live in a country where this democratic process is alive. Sure, Donald Trump may not be the most attractive presidential candidate, but the fact of the matter is, in a nation of nearly 325 million people, it is impossible to satisfy everyone.

I am 16 years old. But I know when the day comes and I am the role model, standing in front of a room of children looking for any glimmer of hope in my eyes, I will give it to them. I will not cry because the candidate that I believed was “less corrupt” did not win. I will always be grateful to live in a nation that gets to decide its own fate, even when it is unexpected and disappointing. And the lesson that Julius Caesar will help me teach is: “Now bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.” So please, hold your head up, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and believe it.

Michael

How do I explain this election to Michaela? How is it that the same throngs of middle Americans who voted for President Obama twice just elected a candidate whose campaign was built on promises to undo all of his predecessor’s accomplishments? How was it that a real estate mogul who builds penthouses and exotic golf courses was embraced by a basket of unemployed rust-belters who could afford neither his rent nor his greens fees? How could a crotch-grabbing, Muslim hating, tax-evading, race-mongering bully, who picked a fight with the Pope, get elected to the highest office in the land?

Because when they listened carefully, above the din of his vulgar, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic vitriol, they heard what they wanted to hear: a promise for change. Even if they were afraid to articulate it in public, enough people living in the right electoral swathes of the country wanted the American Dream to work for them again, even if the details of his plan were scant. So these people went into the polling booths, held their noses, and voted for change, terrified about what that change might look like.

Where do we go from here? I would suggest that we do not go where many of our institutions of higher learning have gone. Hampshire College has decided not to fly American flags over their campus because, in the words of the college spokesman, for some of the students, “the flag is a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe.”

Following the election, classes in colleges across the country were cancelled so that grieving students and faculty could come to terms with …oh yeah, the results of an election. If only the wounded veterans who sacrificed arms and legs and their sanity to ensure our blessings of liberty could receive the same immediate mental health treatment afforded to the whining students who have the luxury of nurturing their petty grievances.

I would also suggest we do not go where the media has gone and appears to be going.

Until election night, the Republican candidate was never perceived as a direct threat to the ascendancy of the heir apparent, the one who had been anointed by the media, and for whom the election was a mere formality. Only a homogenous group of liberal, self-inflated elitists could have insulated themselves so fully from the foul mood among so many Americans. For a day after the election, there was much hand-wringing and soul searching, but now the media is back to casting aspersions and finger pointing.

Perhaps the media and other malcontents like Whoopi Goldberg and Smiley Virus (both of whom are still residents of these United States last I checked) should adopt the more conciliatory tone modeled by our current commander-in-chief in accepting and honoring the sanctity of our democratic process.

Despite the freaks at the fringes of both sides of the political spectrum, this is still the best country in the world to call your home. I was reminded of this at a Thanksgiving road race when the National Anthem was being piped out of the speaker with almost no accompaniment. Suddenly the canned recording malfunctioned, and there was one awkward beat of silence. Then 500 voices came alive together, spontaneously. “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We looked at one another feeling something I am pretty sure none of us had felt in this election cycle. United.

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.

Originally posted at the Milford Mirror

Really Dad? While Mom Was Away

From the Milford Mirror

Michael

My wife, Lisa, had to go out of town on short notice a couple of weeks ago. It was just Mick and me for seven days. I felt a niggling doubt that I hadn’t experienced since we left the hospital 16 years ago with our baby girl when I wondered: “Now what do I do?” How hard could this be, I wondered. Single parents do this 24/7/365.

So on Monday morning I get up at 6 a.m., knock on Mickey’s door, hear her muffled plea for “five more minutes” then brush my teeth, knock on Michaela’s door again, hear her mutter “I’m up” in a husky voice. I shave, rap on the door again, flip on the light in her room and yell: “Michaela Elise!”

“I’m getting up, Dad,” she mumbles, but there is still no movement from behind the door.

It was apparent I had to roll out the big guns. If you don’t get up right now, your boyfriend can’t come over.” A nanosecond later I hear her feet padding across her bedroom. And then, just as predictably as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Michaela asks, “Dad, can you let T-Bone out for me?” I see the fluffy fury circling around the braided rug in the hallway, like a plane looking for a place to land. I scoop him up to bring him down the stairs, not willing to mop up or pick up one of his premature releases.

About the time I get back inside with T-Bone, Mickey yells downstairs to ask if I can make her a chai and some cinnamon toast which she will undoubtedly leave unfinished in the truck after she disembarks for school. I stumble around the kitchen flipping her bread into the toaster, blending my banana, berries and protein in the Ninja, stepping over our golden retriever who is, as always, camped out in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then I select my suit, tie, shoes and towel so that I can shower after my track workout. I pack my soup, sandwich and apple in a paper bag, just as Michaela flitters past me, a supermodel lithely stepping off the runway in Paris. She stuffs her books in her backpack, grabs her coffee and toast, as she makes a beeline for the door.

“Can you put T-Bone in his kennel?” she asks, slamming the storm door before I can respond. I am just latching the door to the kennel when I hear the horn blasting in the driveway. I fill dishes with water and food when the horn blares again.

I lock the front door and stride across the driveway to the driver’s side of the truck, but Michaela is already behind the wheel, anxious to get in as much practice as possible before she takes her driver’s test in January. I walk around the truck to the passenger side.

“You are going to make me late, Dad,” she snarls.

When we arrive at the rear entrance of the school, I ask her to park in the back lot so that I can run on the track before going into the office. It is the only hole in my schedule today. We get out of the truck, and I walk with her the hundred yards to the track, donned in my shorts, fluorescent green shirt and loud running shoes, as a steady procession of cars passes us. Michaela hangs her head as if it is raining, walking at a brisk pace.

“Do you have an exam this morning?” I ask, wondering why she seems so somber. She grimaces as if to say, “Really, Dad?” But instead, she says: “I KNOW all of these kids!” cutting her eyes over to the line of cars slowly rolling toward the school. “And you’re dressed like a freak show.”

“So I guess a kissing hand is out of the question?” I ask, grabbing her hand and pulling it half way up to my lips before she twists away from me and jogs ahead.

“You’re such a goober, dad.”

An hour and a half in the books, and, yep, I am crushing this Mr. Mom thing.

Michaela

A few weeks ago, my mom went to visit her family in L.A., lower Alabama that is, or the “Redneck Riviera” as my dad likes to call it. With mom away and the boys at college, I was on my own. Technically, I was being “supervised” by my father, but as the week unfolded, it became clear that his supervision was neither super nor sighted: in fact, I felt like I was on a ship being steered by a blind captain. Suffice it to say, the week without mom was a little bumpy.

Recently, in a television show that I like to watch, a woman gifted to her significant other a plant as part of a test to see whether her partner would make a good parent. She was going away for a business trip and wanted to see how well he would and/or could take care of the plant. Based on the way our week went, my mom DEFINITELY should have invested in a daisy or two before starting a family with my dad.

The seven days can be summed up in one symbolic scene: Dad feeding the dog. One night I was sitting at the bar table doing some homework when my dad came in and offered to feed the dogs since I was engrossed in my work. Don’t be fooled, he only made this gesture because he was sucking up after not allowing me to have a friend over because I “had too much work to do.” That was a pretext—the real reason being there wouldn’t be enough time for us to have a “cuddle session” while watching TV later if I didn’t get my work done.

A few minutes after my dad had banged around near the dogs’ bowls, I heard T-Bone whining. A frustrated T-Bone was frantically trying to consume the perfectly-oval-shaped chunk of meat that had been carelessly plopped onto a paper plate and tossed onto the floor. He was futilely pushing the plate across the floor because he couldn’t sink his teeth into the pre-formed hunk of meat.

Really Dad?

T-Bone is a smart dog, but he hasn’t quite mastered the use of the fork and knife. I mean, come on. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, by patiently asking: “Dad, did you consider cutting up the food for T-Bone so that he could chew it?” After all, I always mince up the food with a disposable spoon before offering it to my Bobo.

“The dog can’t bite it? Maybe I should have put it in one of my shoes—he rips those apart with no problem.”

I can only imagine what it was like when I was a baby. “What Li, she can’t eat an apple on her own? I see some teeth breaking through her gums. Why doesn’t she use them?”

It’s common sense. If the object of consumption is bigger than the consumer’s head, chances are, they cannot eat it.

Speaking of eating, the meals while mom was away were interesting, to say the least. One night, my dad asked if I wanted “vegetarian Thai curry,” which sounded great. I was puzzled when my dad placed a black plastic container filled with a soupy swirl of chickpeas in front of me. I forced a smile and held my nose so that I could swallow a few bites of the steaming mess.

You’d think that after all of the time my dad spent in postgraduate study, racking up the degrees, he would at least know how to pick out some good microwaveable meals.

Really Dad?

One day during my mom’s absence, my dad bought a cluster of bananas and instead of hanging them on the hook, he skewered one of the bananas through the skin, so that by the next morning all five of the bananas were partially unpeeled, and blackening as a swarm of fruit flies descended upon them.

I realized this was a perfect metaphor for my mom’s place in the family. She is the hook that holds our bunch of bananas together: without her we are unhinged.

I still let my dad think he’s top banana. Sometimes.

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.

Really Dad? Friends over on weeknights

Michaela

In the Kerin family, education is paramount. Don’t get me wrong: my parents aren’t the type to put the weight of the world on their children’s backs, expecting perfection and accepting nothing less. However, they do expect that Caelan, Andrew and I will always try our absolute best because as long as we are giving it our all, they can’t be disappointed. (Most of the time). Just to be clear, this article is not meant to make me sound unaware or ungrateful for the life and love provided by my amazing parents. I am beyond thankful that I have a mother and father who believe in me and love to see me prosper in everything that I do. On the other hand, I am not always thankful for what comes with this thirst to watch me succeed. Let me explain.

High school is an extremely strenuous time for teens. My two brothers, now in college, can definitely attest to that. I try REALLY hard to wake up at 5:45 a.m. to get ready for school, only to sit through hours upon hours of classes, and return home at around 3 p.m.

This schedule does not include the multitude of extracurriculars which add to the stress and strain of a long academic day. As you can imagine, after these long, difficult days, some CWMH (Chilling With My Homies) time sounds great to me. Unfortunately, it never sounds so good to Pop, which is ironic considering he can’t hear too much these days.

“Not on a school night Michaela,” begins his lecture to me on the plethora of reasons why having a friend over is not consistent with my goals and responsibilities: Friends will distract me; I won’t get my work done; I will be up too late; I won’t have time to study. And then he concludes his little pep talk with the “Father knows best” card: “I know you don’t understand this now, but I’m doing it for you. I just want you to be the best student that you can be.”

Really Dad? You’re trying to pull a guilt trip on me? I am the queen of puppy dog eyes, but nice try. So, to all of you parents out there who might be thinking that his response is perfectly reasonable, l hope this changes your mind.

Thanks to one of those aforementioned extracurriculars, the debate team at Amity, I have discovered that every claim must have credible justification and/or evidence to be considered “valid.” So if my father’s support for his claim is that my friends will distract me from my studies if they visit on school nights, his argument is, in fact, invalid. I go to school every day with nearly 2,000 of my peers, at least 25 of whom are in each of my classes and according to my dad, that is 25 distractions. But how can that be true? If the very place where I learn is full of friends, then how can he claim that only one of them will derail my ability to focus on studies outside of school? This is especially true when you consider that by being together, my friends and I are capable of working with each other on the homework, which can only increase our understanding. Therefore, his supports are not credible. Boom.

My dad doesn’t seem to have a problem with after-school activities that he thinks look good on my resume. If it’s the debate team, or the justice program, or even track, he will find a way to tear himself away from the Red Sox game to transport me to the North Pole if necessary, which discredits his justification of “being up too late.” Hate to break it to ya Daddio, but whether it’s hanging out with the boy toy or mock trying a court case as part of my Yale Justice Program, the pre-calculus homework will still be waiting for me. The moral of the story is that all I ask is for is a little free time to do my “thang” with the people (besides my family) that I love. You’re cute dad, but sometimes I need a change of scenery.

 

Mike

I’m not quite sure why Michaela feels so oppressed when I try to enforce our policy of no friends over on school nights. It’s really quite a simple rule: No friends over on weeknights. There, I’ve said it twice now. But anyone who knows Michaela well is aware she will not take “no” for an answer. The kid is like a jackhammer on steroids, chipping away at you in her relentless quest to change a “no” into a “yes’.” The excuses she comes up with to try to wheedle an exception out of me are as imaginative as they are endless. “Dad, Thursday really is the weekend because it ends with a Y just like Saturday and Sunday.” Or “Dad, James has to come over because I am going to cut his hair for our school pictures tomorrow,” like suddenly she has a barber’s license, and a pair of hedge clippers for this kid’s chia pet hairdo. Or “Can Caroline’s mom drop her off here after horseback riding because her parents have a meeting to go to,” even though I’m pretty sure Caroline’s mom was told this was my idea.

One of her favorite ploys is telling me she has this massive project, such as annotating the US Constitution for AP Gov., which will be unyielding to her singular brain, and can only be comprehended if she assembles a gaggle of giggling girls to plumb the depths of such esoteric language as “We the people of the United States, in order to establish a more perfect union…”  Whew! That’s impenetrable.

And even if her friends are not physically assembled, she can and most assuredly does summon their electronic presence while she sits at the bar in our kitchen with her laptop illuminated with text, and a box in the upper left-hand corner with a classmate’s live video-stream, a pair of buds wedged between her ears, her notebook and textbook open, a pen in hand as she “face-snatches” with one or more of her classmates.

How  can she have these “chatter-grams” while simultaneously trying to conjugate verbs in Spanish? Yikes, I’m not even sure if she is taking another year of Spanish, which I thought would look good on her resume and be useful in life, but I’ve learned that kids are like tillers on a sailboat: If you want to steer them to the right, you have to push the rudder to the left—you know, tell them the opposite of what you want them to do. She probably zigged with Spanish because I had suggested she zag.

When I glare at her for breaking the spirit of our rule “no friends over on weeknights” she inevitably has an excellent excuse on hand for me—“we have a quiz tomorrow in marine biology, and me and MacKenzie want to divide up the material.”

I tell her for the millionth time that it’s “MacKenzie and I” which elicits her annoying hand gesture in which she spreads open the five fingers of her left hand, with the exquisite precision of a conductor, then slowly draws them closed together, while softly shushing me.

Last night she told me that she had gotten back a grade in her AP Gov class in which she was able to use her annotations from the Constitution in an open book test. She explained that the class as a whole had under-performed and the several instructors were trying to determine whether to give a curve because of the atrocious grades.

I sensed she was laying the foundation for what was coming next, and could feel the anger begin to darken the edges of my mood.

“I got a 47, Dad.”

As I let that sink home, hearing my molars clicking in my jaw, I noted that her naughty smile seemed out of place in light of the somber news. Then she added: “Out of 50.  A 94!”  Boom indeed.  Maybe I should try twitter-gramming with one of my buddies while I write my next brief.

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.

Really Dad ? Driving Lessons

Michael

Every March 2nd I wake up my daughter singing “Happy Birthday.” I also sing to her on March 3rd, the 4th, the 5th, and so on for the next 60 days until it is actually her birthday, on May 2nd. If a friend of hers happens to be staying over during this two month period, there is always a moment of embarrassed confusion that Mickey has to clear up by explaining that it’s not really her birthday; it’s just a weird daddy thing. She probably chalks it up to another reason the Department of Children and Families should pay a visit to our home. But mostly she seems content to smile and play along, enjoying the attention of her extended birthday.

Since this year will be her sweet 16th, there has been an exuberant push to claim the rights and privileges attendant with her coming of age: yes, I mean driving. Because we spend a lot of time up in our cabin in Vermont, both our kids have been lucky enough to hone their driving skills on the lonely dirt roads of Windham where you are more likely to encounter a moose or bear than another vehicle. We had to curtail Michaela’s driving in Vermont for a time after a misadventure one fine February morning when she slid into a snowbank at the edge of the driveway, having been momentarily mesmerized by her own reflection in the rearview mirror. It took a good hour of digging and putting evergreen branches under the tires to finally extricate ourselves from the mound of snow, and with each passing moment of that spectacular morning that we were not carving turns on the mountain, I became a little more perturbed with Michaela. I started to lecture her about keeping her eyes on the road, when Lisa interrupted me to remind me that our daughter was only 10 years old, so I should probably go easy on her.

Now her mantra is for driving lessons whenever we get into the car. I want her to get as much experience under her belt as possible, under all sorts of conditions, before that day when I hand over the keys and she will disappear down the driveway without looking back. We practice driving up at the old airport which is private property, so is not technically against the law. She drives along the dirt tracks that parallel the rings where she has had horse competitions. I wonder how I could have been so nervous when she was in charge of just one horse, when now, she has to control several hundred horses revving under the hood. She practices parking in the lot adjacent to the firehouse, opening her door each time to see how close she came to the white line.

On a quiet Sunday, after we have driven down a deserted cul de sac, completing three point turns, backing into parking spaces, and pulling forward between the two white lines, I drive home. Mickey asks to park the car in the driveway. She pulls up to the garden circumscribed by a border of football-signed rocks. This would have been the end of an uneventful driving lesion, except she lurches forward crunching one of the small boulders against the undercarriage of the car. Michaela is all apologies. I can feel involuntary fasciculation’s rippling across my face as my daddy demeanor is losing an argument to the guy who pays the bills. Or as Michaela likes to say, the “bulldog” look was creeping across my face. “Are you kidding me, Mick?” I ask, the irritation leaking into my voice, her eyebrows furrowing. “But Dad, I didn’t mean to,” her bottom lip quivering, her eyes welling with tears.

I know what’s coming next if I don’t turn this around quickly. I invoke the wisdom of my grandmother, telling her: “Don’t cry over what money can buy,” a phrase I will try to remember a month later when my son totals the same car, but is not injured. Mickey puts the car in reverse, and I pretend not to hear the rending screech of the car being pried off the rock. I will wait till later to run my fingers along the gouge under the bumper. Mickey has her swag back as she rolls down the road again. The waterworks have been averted.

On another lesson, Michaela navigates down a mile-long descent, gathering speed as she goes. I see two things coming up fast—an oncoming dump truck and a garbage bin that the wind has blown about three feet into her lane. My right leg starts twitching as I hunt for a brake pedal that does not exist. “Slow down,” I caution, as I pucker-up the fabric from the seat beneath me. She follows my instruction to a tee, slowing the SUV but holding her line straight into the plastic can which goes flying into the yard from whence it came. On a brighter note, the dump truck speeds by without incident.

Note to myself: perhaps she needs a bit more practice before unleashing her on the highways. Another six years ought to do it. About the same time I tell the orthodontist to take off her braces.

Michaela

No matter what my father claims, my first accident (in a car) was not last year. In fact it was at least six years ago. I was young and small enough that my legs were too short to reach the controls of a vehicle, never mind a Durango truck. My parents had the brilliant idea to allow their child to drive down a snowy, slippery driveway. Of course as one could easily guess, I had not yet mastered my steering skills at age ten, so the two right tires may have drifted slightly off the road into a ditch that was impossible to get out of. But whose fault is that: the innocent little girl who was sitting on her dad’s lap driving; or the irresponsible father who allowed the little girl to drive? Really Dad? Anyway, I have not lived that one down, regardless of the fact that my little mishap has been eclipsed by another, shall we say, reckless driver in the family. *Cough cough* my brother *cough*.

As of right now, my sixteenth birthday is in two days, and if all goes well, I will get my learners’ permit in three days. So recently each of my parents has been individually giving me driving lessons. The first two lessons with my dad did not go so well. I will set the scene for you: Nervous Michaela is worried about driving and redeeming herself in her father’s eyes. We have just finished a nice drive on a dead end street. My dad drove home, and I asked to park the car when we are back in the driveway. My dad stops the car on a dead-end street. I get my seatbelt on, start the car, adjust the mirrors and the seat. I put the car in drive to pull around a small rock wall surrounding the garden in my driveway, we are cruisin’; and then bang. Well technically it wasn’t a bang, more of a high pitched “eeee” but in my dad’s ears it sounded more like the chi-ching of a cash register, back in the days of black and white movies. The bottom of the pristine driver’s side door was a wee bit too close to the rocks and apparently it came in contact with one of them. Woopsies. Even though the Audi A4 now lives at Nino’s Garage, unable to be driven, and NOT because of yours truly, I still reap the consequences of that tiny accident. In the bigger picture, that was just a chip in the fingernail polish. By the time my brother wrecked the rig, there was no finger left, never mind the nail to paint.

Now on to the second driving lesson. This time, we made it out of the driveway and down the hill without any issues, so I was feeling good. My dad is an easy person to drive with in comparison to my mother, who is like an air traffic controller, streaming live, warning me about even the most remote possibility of contact with another vehicle, pedestrian, or in Bethany, horses. My dad is much calmer, tending to point out dangers only when they are imminent, which is usually the style better suited to me. However, I do get anxious when I am driving down a hill, coming around a turn in a rather large vehicle, headed straight for a garbage can placed smack in the middle of my lane, while at the same time a truck is accelerating up the hill and around the turn in the opposite lane and the only instruction I receive is “Slow down.” Naturally, I chose the lane with the garbage can and not the one with the speeding vehicle, and perhaps the Durango may have grazed the rubber container. My dad yelled and then laughed at my mistake; the laughing hurt far worse than the yelling. Maybe if he had been a little more animated about the obstacles ahead, I could have avoided them altogether. Thank you though pops, so funny.

Although some of these lessons did not go perfectly, others did. They served not only as driving lessons but life lessons, time for my dad and me to talk about anything going on in our lives, even things that may have seemed stupid at the time. It’s like that country song about a father and a daughter who go fishing together, “She Thinks We’re Just Fishing.” I know we’re not just driving. I am grateful not only for the mistakes I can make when my dad is in the car, but for the memories that come out of them. And even though in a few months, I will be driving on my own, I might have to get a checkup on my skills every once in a while, dad. Because you know, your advice is always fire, as the kids say these days.

Really Dad? Drives to School

Posted on Amity Observer Jan 12, 2016
http://www.amityobserver.com/14476/really-dad-drives-to-school/

Michael Kerin and his teenage daughter Michaela of Bethany are co-contributors to the column, “Really Dad?” in which they explore the world through the eyes of their respective generation.

Michael

Black Converse kicks are propped on the dashboard of the TT, with the “Sound of Sunshine” pouring through the speakers. Michaela’s head rocks from side to side as she screams the lyrics: “And that’s the sound of sunshine pouring down, down down, down…” I turn down the radio to try to find out which bus she is taking home, and what she is going to be doing after school since I am flying solo this week while my wife, Lisa, is visiting with “her Mom and them” down on the Redneck Riviera.

She cranks up the lyrics and then mumbles something that I cannot decipher above the cacophony blaring from the Bose. I turn to ask her what she just said in time to see a swish of a camisole being pulled over her head.

“Dad, I said don’t look!” This time the instruction registers clearly in my eardrums that have been dulled by years of unprotected target practice decades ago. How was I supposed to know she had changed my car into an impromptu dressing room? The song keeps banging on.

“So I jump back in there where I learned to swim, Try to keep my head above it the best I can…”

I ask my daughter what was up with her sudden wardrobe change. She tells me that her blouse was too transparent, so she had to add a layer. Immediately, I wonder how I could have missed something so apparent after spending the last half an hour with her at home. But in the blur of getting breakfast ready, feeding the dogs, trying to address a few Christmas cards and organize some workout clothes, I had missed the obvious. The truth is she could have gotten into the car with her hair on fire, and I would have thought the car ahead of me was burning some oil. That would never have occurred on Lisa’s watch: she would have had Michaela hotfooting it back up to her room before she reached the bottom step of the stairway.

I muse about what a lousy father I am as we begin lurching across the speed bumps in the high school driveway, seeing the sleepy upper classmen stagger out of their cars and amble toward the front door. This time next year Mickey will be one of them, driving herself to and from school. I am reminded of a friend’s somber observation recently that he “lost” his daughter the day she got her license. How do the years unspool so quickly? Wasn’t it just five minutes ago that her feet dangled from her car seat as she gave me a good luck kissing hand before skipping into her elementary school?

I resolve to find out the particulars of her plans for the weekend as I turn down the radio again. Getting answers to the five W’s is the essence of good parenting after all. “So Mickey…” I manage to say before she jams up the volume.. She is smiling, rollicking in the beat that will not be denied. She knows just how far she can push me, and I am right at the brink.

“Here I am…Just waiting for this storm to pass me by…”

We pull up to the curb, and I am still clueless about her plans. She nudges me to join her in the chorus. We belt it out, as she gathers her book bag and candles she’s giving to her teachers. I realize with an odd mixture of sadness and pride that she had not needed me or her mother to tell her how to dress this morning. She handled it quite nicely herself. Now she’s almost out the door, and still, I do not know the plan. She clicks open her door, starts out, then turns back to grab my hand and deposit a kiss in it. “I’ll text you later about the plans…” Then she’s gone.

I idle down the driveway listening to the sound of sunshine coming down.

Michaela

A morning in the Kerin household is more hectic than any mall on Black Friday. When I wake up, I go down and take T-Bone and Chai out and make sure they are both fed and watered. On the way back upstairs, I turn on and/or refill the Keurig so we can all make coffee. My mom usually cooks breakfast which I know is done when the smoke alarm goes off. Then have to choose a tie to match Dad’s suit, shoes and a scarf to match mom’s outfit, and eventually, I get myself ready. The bell which initiates class dings at exactly 7:32 every morning. My first period class on most days is AP United States History, one of my most challenging. And my parents wonder why I am always late getting in the car.

For most people, the ride to school is a short period of peace and quiet to gather themselves: for me, it is no less hectic than the rest of the morning. While mom uses one eye and hand to drive and the other eye and hand to put on mascara, I rip the knots out of my hair with a brush until I can glide it through my luscious locks without making me wince. Then I plug the AUX cord into my phone and the jam sesh begins. My mom is beginning to gain an appreciation for my taste in music, which my dad continues to deem “nonsense.” Really Dad? My goal is to turn the music up loud enough that my mom can’t hear herself thinking of questions to ask about the day. My mouth and brain have a disconnect until at least 9 a.m.; I cannot yet handle the interrogation. Usually, the scheme works and the only words escaping through the beat are the lyrics to my favorite songs by Wiz Khalifa, J Cole, Kanye West, and all of the other rappers my dad does not approve of. On rare occasion, my dad is the one to take me to school, an experience my brothers dreaded when they were my age.

In elementary school, the drop off area was a large loop which parents would follow until they reached the school greeter and then they would follow the circle the rest of the way around and out of the parking lot. However, it seems my dad had witnessed a few too many of my horse shows because he would prance through the circle a few extra times, completing victory laps, beeping here and there so everyone knew who was arriving. The woman who ushered the children out of their cars began to cover her ears when she saw my father’s TT roll up. Then came middle school, and a different drop off scene. Here, the cars would pull in and follow a straight line from one side of the parking lot to the opposite end, and out onto the road. I honestly do not know if this was on purpose or just to humiliate me, but my dad would go the wrong way nine out of ten times and proceed to beep for the entire length of the road. Thanks for that one by the way, I got laughed at by the security guard almost daily.

And most recently, high school rides with dad. Where to begin? For part of my freshman year, I rode to school with both Caelan and Andrew. In just a few rides, my dad horrified all three of us in haunting ways, mostly targeting the boys. I’ll share a few instances. Usually, my brothers stormed out of the car while the wheels were still turning because they couldn’t get out fast enough. They would then whip their backpacks onto their shoulders (although I’m surprised they fit over their bulging egos) and swagger toward the side door. On one occasion when my dad didn’t scream something along the lines of “Don’t forget you have ballet practice tonight boys!” he did something worse. This time, the boys couldn’t pretend they didn’t know the crazy man in the sports car: they were trapped. My dad not only tied their backpacks together in the trunk, he tied them to the trunk. So when it came time, the boys hopped out of the car with their “cool dude tudes” as my dad calls them, and went to grab their backpacks but obviously couldn’t get them. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, my brothers for looking like goons, or me, waiting for them, revealing not only that I was related to the goons, but also, I was related to the crazy dude in the TT.

This year, with Caelan and Andrew gone, I am the new target. However, at this point, there is not much that my dad can do to embarrass me, I have seen it all. Riding with my dad is like riding with my mom, except when I blast the music it’s to drown out my dad when he screams out the window: “Michaela Kerin, is that the boy that you told me you want to go to prom with?” and other horrifying slurs. Suffice it to say, if mom isn’t available, I would rather ride the filthy bus than my other option.

Really Dad? The last goodbye

Kerin

My heart refused to do the math: four minus one is three. For months I had tried to brace myself for the moment at the end of the summer when I would have to accept this simple computation, but it turns out there are some things in life for which you cannot prepare. On August 27th our family of four effectively became a family of three when we delivered my son to the college he will call home for the next four years.

How did this day arrive so quickly? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we dropped off my little boy at the pre-school and waved at him through the window as he sobbed in his teacher’s arms? Could it really be time to entrust him to this institution of higher learning for the next four years? Had we imparted the last bit of wisdom that we parents had to offer?

Ready or not, we drove the two hours north, unpacked our truck and stowed his belongings in his dormitory. We met his two roommates and their parents, rented his books, had lunch in his cafeteria, and then attended a welcoming mass for the incoming freshmen and their families. The homily was given by the President of the school who foretold that just as St. Augustine encountered mighty challenges in his search for faith and meaning in his life, so too would our sons and daughters necessarily struggle in the next four years on their quest to shape their future. He suggested that like St. Augustine, our children would don and discard ideas like trendy clothes, and that like St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, who watched her son flounder, but never stopped praying for him to find his path, we parents must let go while praying that he or she will find his way. We found some solace in St. Augustine’s discovery that the heart is restless until it rests in the Lord.

And so we left the gym and walked our son out onto the quad where he was supposed to find his break-out group for orientation amidst the hundreds of freshmen milling about the sun-drenched lawn. This was the end of the line, the last goodbye. My son hugged me more tightly than he has in a long time, as he did his mother and sister. Lisa and Michaela dabbed at their eyes, squinting in the sunlight. I watched him slip away into the sea of wandering freshmen, trying to find their place in their new world. Suddenly Lisa realized we had not gotten one last picture together and was frantic to get one. I quietly told her he was gone, took her hand and Michaela’s and walked back to his dorm where we assembled the fan we’d bought in the bookstore, and each of us wrote a note for him to find in his room.

Of course we got stuck in rush hour traffic, just at the moment we needed to put some space between us and his college, the delay only exacerbating the agony we each felt in our own way. We finally limped onto I 95 to head back to Connecticut. Somewhere just past Warwick my eyes fogged up as I allowed myself to replay snippets of our life together: spiking our hair after a bathroom break at a restaurant; teaching him to ride his bicycle in our front yard, watching him fall again and again on the soft lawn; riding cross-country with him when he turned 16; watching him throw fastballs from the mound; skiing the steeps in Vermont; free diving behind Block Island.

We had planned to stop in Mystic for dinner on the way home, but none of us had much of an appetite. Instead, I called my mother, who reproved me for being so glum on such a “glorious” day. She reminded me of a day many years ago when one of her sons drove himself and the family dog to college, honking his horn all the way out of the neighborhood, a cigar clenched confidently between his teeth, as he stormed headlong into his own destiny. Yes, I remembered the day well, and it made me smile.

Michaela

When I opened my eyes after hugging him tightly one final time, I watched as he walked for a few steps until quickly disappearing into the school of nervous minnows, flopping awkwardly all around. It wasn’t until that instant that I realized that this was really goodbye. Similarly to the way you watch the world below you slowly shrink into a tiny speck when taking off on an airplane, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this. My brother was entering his new home and beginning his new life. He was taking his first steps into adulthood. Our lives would never be the same.

Rewind a few hours: Move-In Day. My family woke up early and got ready for the big day. On the ride to Providence, my mom was driving and remained fairly quiet: my dad was full of nervous chatter and cheesy jokes. (Really Dad?) At first, I didn’t know what was going on with him, until I realized that he was saying anything he could, to keep from thinking about where we were going.

When we arrived at Providence, there were friendly guards who led us (in our car) through several checkpoints to my brother’s assigned dorm. Eventually, we pulled into a parking lot outside of a four-story brick building. Instantly, some cheery students in yellow shirts buzzed over to welcome us and help to unload. Caelan’s room number was written on a piece of paper and taped to his flat screen television, the biggest item that he had brought. Typical. When we walked into the building, it was as if we were entering another universe. Many words came to mind, some of which were: intimidating, bland, packed, tense. However, one word didn’t appear in my thoughts. Home. Granted when peeking into the open doors of the rooms full of excited new adults and nervous parents, I saw multiple miniature fridges, bean bags, fuzzy blankets, even a multi-colored furry rug (courtesy of Caelan), but there was no character. There was no stain on the floor from when T-Bone was a puppy. There was no missing shingle from the time when a lacrosse ball was thrown too hard in front of the garage. No initials were carved in the headboard of the bed with a pocket-knife from fifth grade. And no matter how many faux fur rugs there were, there were no dogs to cover them with the real deal. I could not picture my brother in his bed, his head on his pillow, feeling comfortable and cozy, and falling asleep in this place.

Later that day, there was an optional mass for all of the incoming students. After my family found our seats, I began to watch the other families shuffle in. With every new face I saw, I wondered which ones would eventually be comforting to Caelan. I wondered which face would replace mine for this chapter of his life. By the end of the night, when we all was said and done and I was back at home, the only face I was thinking about, was his. I went up to my room and sat on my bed with an old Christmas picture of Caelan and me from 2002 and I cried, hard, for a long time. Not necessarily because I was sad, but more because I am selfish. I didn’t want to share my brother with the rest of the world. I liked watching over him and knowing the people he spent time with. I cried because I realized that I no longer had to hide my after school-snacks in fear of him scarfing them down. I realized that if I wanted to hear the piano, I would have to learn a few songs. It also occurred to me that in the evenings now, when I am brushing my teeth and washing my face in the bathroom, there will be no one sitting in the bathtub, with the curtains closed, to talk to. I cried because there will be no more rowdy boys to push me around and annoy my friends when they come over. I would no longer see Rucks (Luke), Potesy (Joey), Shartsy (Nick Schnartz) or even Andy, my brother from another mother. I cried because I realized, that if life goes according to plan, my family will never again live under the same roof.

Recently, I saw a home video that was made on the day I was born. I was in my mom’s arms in the hospital bed when Caelan, my almost three year old brother, saw me for the first time. Since that moment, I have had a best friend. We’ve screamed at each other and hit each other, we’ve been unimaginably angry at each other. But in these 15 years, we have created a bond that will never be broken. Caelan has been my role model, my brother, and the best friend a girl could ever ask for, for 15 years. Whether he is downstairs playing piano until I fall asleep, or in his dorm at Providence, he will be there for me. He will protect and help to guide me, from a distance. It is scary saying goodbye, but this is his chance to fly. We have to step out of the way and let him spread his wings. Good luck brother. We love you.

Really Dad? Rocky Mountain High

Really-Dad-snow

Michael

When my buddy, Tom, invited me to join him and two other guys on a father-daughter trip to Breckenridge, I was all in.

Twenty or more snowstorms ago, it seemed like a good idea, but by mid-March when we departed, and our yard still resembled the Artic tundra, an unbroken vista of white that had not yielded an inch since the beginning of the year, the prospect of flying most of the way across country to get to a colder and snowier place had lost some of its appeal.

We flew out of Windsor on a Thursday afternoon, four giddy girls and their fathers headed for a long weekend of skiing in Breckenridge where Tom’s brother and sister-in-law live. Their house was perched at the base of the resort, some 9800 feet above feet above sea level, causing us to huff and puff up the stairs with our bags. “Rapid,” Tom’s brother, was all accelerator and no brakes, fully amped at all times, and eternally optimistic, despite having endured a season-ending shoulder injury a week earlier.

His wife, Dee, or “Delicious” as the girls dubbed her, was the perfectly-reserved foil for her hyper husband, and a generous tour guide, taking us up all five peaks, knowing where the groomed trails would be in the early morning, which bowls to bomb once the sun had hit them long enough, and how to avoid lift lines. The girls made fast friends, energizing and emboldening each other to carve some steep bowls and blast some tight tree runs. When they disappeared into the woods, we could keep track of them from the slopes by listening to their squeals of laughter echoing in the forest. The girls ate sandwiches that we dads carried in our backpacks, not wanting to waste any time in the lodge, skiing run after run down the diamond and double diamond trails.

We rode up the highest lift in the United States — which is 12,898 feet. From there you can hike up another 100 vertical feet if you have the lungs to carry your gear up the makeshift snow stairs to the absolute top of the world. The other fathers and daughters climbed that last bit, (including one of the fathers who had recently blown out his knee skiing) but Mickey and I were content to ski down to the Vista Haus, mid-mountain, to take a sun-bath on the patio.

Every night the girls lounged in the in the hot tub for an hour, even snow rolling one evening to get the endorphins flowing. After dinner, they sang along to the music piped into speakers through their I Phones, gave each other mini-makeovers and even washed the dishes on one night. We dads kept waiting for them to crash, night after night, but it never happened. Even though the youngest was 11 and Mickey was the oldest at 14, there was no whining and lots of smiles.

Too quickly Thursday had melted into Monday, and we had to head back to Denver to catch a plane. But first we spent a sun-drenched morning shopping on Main Street in Breck, ducking in and out of chic stores selling tee shirts, jackets hats, and other touristy items that we made room for in our already over-stuffed bags.

The younger girls were all holding their fathers’ hands, so apparently it was cool for Mickey to hold mine. Sure Breckenridge boasts of some of the best skiing in the country, but there was no greater thrill for me than walking down Main Street, the spring sun warm on my face, holding Mickey’s hand.

A look on the mountain.

Michaela

Each time we rode a chairlift, we got to the top and were presented with the same view, yet it never ceased to take our breath away. It was 12,898 feet in the air. It felt like we were standing on top of the world. We looked down, and far below us stood the trees. The wind whispered through the branches, sending beautiful little clouds of crystals skating across the mountain. The crystals were taunting us to join them. To drop down into the bowl and ride this astonishing creation with them.

We pointed our boards downhill, let gravity take over, and began to fly. It was hard not to feel completely vulnerable in this instant, but if you thought too hard about how fast you were going, you might wipe out. I just turned off that part of my brain and soared down the mountain, completely unafraid. . We carved down the mountain as fast as we could, ducking into the trees whenever there was a trail, and sometimes, when there wasn’t. I have never skied faster or further. I loved every second of every run.

At Breckenridge, there are five main peaks. On each peak, there is a base lodge and warming hut or restaurant lodge at the top. One of the peaks, Peak 7, has a lodge at the bottom aptly named the Grand Lodge, where my dad and I met some friends after the last run of our final day there. As I neared the bottom, I could see a five story building with balconies overlooking a large patio, with a view toward the mountains. When I popped out of my skis and leaned them against the fence, I noticed that there were three hot tubs, an outdoor heated pool that flowed indoors if you swam through the freezer flaps hanging down, and grills sizzling with hamburgers and hotdogs. Just on the other side of the fence people were wearing bikinis and shorts as they splashed in the water and walked on the heated patio.

Our friends had told us to bring our bathing suits, but as I opened the gate and clomped onto the patio with my ski boots, I kept thinking how surreal this was: on one side of the gate it was winter, and just a few inches on the other side, it was summer. I felt out of place in my boots and ski parka, but once we changed into our suits I made the transition in my head. We spent a few hours jumping in and out of the water, and getting too much sun, in spite of the sunscreen we slopped on. When it was time to go, it was back to winter again. We had to go back into the changing room, put on our winter gear, including our ski boots, to catch the shuttle back to the house.

When we were walking back to the bus stop, I caught a whiff of something that smelled like a skunk. I mentioned it to my dad, who explained that the smell was marijuana which is legal in Colorado. I added that to the list of unforgettable experiences in Breckenridge. The three days I stayed in Breckenridge Colorado will live with me forever. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had. I’m not sure that skiing in Vermont will ever be the same again.

Really Dad? Snow Day

MICHAEL

Who doesn’t get a little giddy about the prospect of a guilt-free day off, courtesy of Mother Nature? For the kids, it’s like getting a free pass from the principal to skip a day with all of your friends. And for us grown-ups, what better excuse is there to stay home than a governor’s proclamation to keep off highways and byways?