Suffering social life: Teens need to see each other and get around, but parental taxi service piles up the miles

Mobility is an important issue at age 13, especially when all of your friends live between 20 and 1,000-plus miles away. Normally, teens can do most of their feeding at the friendship trough during school, with the occasional weekend sleepover.
These are not normal times (pardon my understatement). This pandemic has a ripple effect in many directions. A big one of creating the inability to see and socialize at school.
I know school is a tightly scheduled exercise in academia, with little slack time. But there still are those times — in the hallway, at lunch — when girls (not to overlook the boys, but c’mon) make social, face-to-face contact. This has been taken away.
Admittedly, there is a great deal of face-to-face contact in the tech world. You can join with one, two, three friends for a game or a gossip session. It’s never quiet behind daughter’s door.
Toss in Tic-Tok and Instagram, and the opportunities to see each — albeit in two dimensions — grow appreciably.
But there’s nothing like the real thing (thanks, Coke). It’s been a hardship getting kids together, and as parents, we welcome Daughter’s social interactions.
A parent (driver) must be recruited in the planning of any sleepovers or other events. In an ideal world, the parent of one child would drop off, and the parent of the other child would bring home the house guest.
As we all know, the space between ideal and reality can take on a chasm-like appearance. We do the best we can.
This weekend, her Mother drove 26 miles each way to pick up an overnight guest. Yesterday, I repeated the trip. I joke about being daughter’s private taxi service …
Today, after taking her to the nail salon (nearly two hours), we got home and she immediately asked if another friend could come over. Well, not immediately. She tried to ask me while I was in the bathroom. Any more is TMI. It meant an 18-mile trip up the Interstate, then 18 miles back. I grumbled, but agreed. Lucky break: I asked daughter to confirm again before we hit the road. A family issue had come up on the other end, and tonight’s trip was off. The immediate follow-up, of course: “Can we pick her up tomorrow?”
These experiences accrue in the “I can’t wait until she can drive” parental savings account. We’re not that close yet.
This is all playing out in the shadow of a daily monster drive. Her school (district) has discontinued what they call regional bus service, a cost-saving measure. We were grateful this past school year that we had to drive only to the bus stop, twice a day, where the bus picked her up and dropped her off. It 15-20 minutes each way, depending on traffic.
It’s very important to all of us that Daughter remains at her current school. She’s in a high-performance program that challenges her in ways other schools have failed. Plus, her current school was the third in three years. It’s tough enough to survive as a teen, but switching again is just not fair, and we’d lose the program.
Challenge (I wanted to say problem): Her school is about 45 minutes away. Mom will drive there and back the morning, before going to work, and I will take custody of the afternoon pick-up. This is going to be dicey, because I don’t finish work until 3:30 and there often after-school obligations.
I suggested she do homework in the library, but that was quickly rejected. Only “nerds” do that (she’s kinda one herself, but don’t tell her). Hopefully, she’ll make the winter cheer team after school, which would keep her busy.
We know this is only the beginning. The parental chauffeur service is just getting started.
Then I had an idea: Daughter has mentioned she wants a golf cart for her 14th birthday. Hmmm. In addition to toodling around the neighborhood, maybe she could find a way to drive it to school.


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