It’s weird having a 9th grader. I have extremely clear memories of 9th grade and the fall of 1984. Not all good. I mean aside from Red Dawn being released nothing good happened. My family moved from Chicagoland to the suburbs of Rochester, NY. And Wham hit #1 with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Then Jack Wagner hit #2 with All I Need. Plus I spent every football practice getting run over by a kid who went on to play college football. Things could’ve been better.
And now our oldest is braving the dangers of maiden voyage into high school. Although locally its not the same for her as it was for me. Or Mom. In our town the 9th graders are separated from the rest of the high schoolers. So much so that they have their own building. Yep. A stand alone 9th grade.
The Powers That Be sold it to the voters as a stand alone 9th grade building that would be built in such a way so that it could be easily expanded into a second high school. At the time I was childless and thought, “hey, normally I don’t vote for this stuff but by the time I have kids, the current high school will be overcrowded and…crappy, I guess.”
So I voted for it and it passed.
Then about 7 years later, the Powers That Be decided that they never said it could be expanded into a second high school and tried to pass another bond referendum expanding the current high school. Turns out I wasn’t the only person who voted for the 9th grade in anticipation of it turning into a second high school. Because, as most of you know, bond referendums need a 60% vote in favor to pass. Unfortunately for the Powers That Be, 60% of the voters – including me – gave them the finger and voted no.
Later on it turned out that the school district was able to finance an expansion using the district’s reserve fund. Which of course led to more middle fingers while asking why the hell didn’t you just do it that way in the first place.
Regardless, Rye is in 9th grade and she’s physically separated from older boys by a few miles and several brick walls. Turns out that once you have a 14 year old daughter in 9th grade you are okay with her being in stand alone building regardless of the promises of the Powers That Be.
Last weekend she had her first Homecoming Dance. She went with a kid who made a poster for her which contained the actual ask. It was creative. First sentence on the poster said, “I hope you don’t think I’m a nerd for making you this poster.” But instead of writing the word “nerd” he glued a box of Nerds onto the poster. Yeah, that’s pretty creative. Throughout the rest of the poster he the same thing gluing candy strategically into sentences. But what I was really impressed with was the kid’s speed. Not kidding. The doorbell rings and I’m sitting at the kitchen table. It’s no more ten normal steps from my chair to the door. And I got up right away. There was no lag between the doorbell and my movement towards the front door. I open the door and nobody is there. I look down and see this poster on the concrete. I smiled, yelled for Rye to come to the door, and then scanned the horizon.
My thoughts? “Man, this is the fastest kid on the planet. Where the hell did he go?”
I’m sure he was hiding around the corner of the house with one of his buddies who he convinced to come along. But still it only took me about 5 seconds to get to the door. And he was gone. Vanished. Kid has like Rickey Henderson speed or something. Or a cloaking device. Which would be both cool and disconcerting. I mean you don’t want your 14 year old daughter going anywhere with a kid who knows how to become invisible to the naked eye. Plus if a 14 year old kid has a cloaking device…well, what the hell do the terrorists have? But still, a cloaking device! Sweet.
Anyway, the kid and his Dad come over and pick up Rye and drive downtown to the park where they are taking pictures with the rest of their group – about 40 kids in all. Then they went to dinner and then a bus took them to the dance. Mom and I following to get our share of pics and thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we were downtown on a Saturday evening and go to dinner at one of the local brewpubs.
Sound plan right?
Except for the glitch. I know what some of you are saying, “you have a 14 year-old daughter, there is a glitch embedded into your day. All the time.” Which, of course, is correct. This particular glitch involved me giving up a sweet parking spot and driving all the way back home and then all way back downtown. Now its Des Moines, so its not like I have to navigate the streets of Chicago. But still…
Mom’s phone buzzes just as we’re parking my truck. All I saw was the look on her face when she said, “Well you have to tell your Dad.”
Exactly nothing awesome has ever happened when you combine that sentence, Mom’s facial expression and the tone of her voice.
“Hi Dad. I forgot my school ID and they won’t let us into the dance without it. Can you drive home and pick it up and then bring it to the restaurant. And you have to be back her in about 45 minutes.”
So there are, in fact, numerous ways in which to respond.
1) You can say, “Sucks for you.” And hang up the phone. But as every Dad knows this is a death sentence. From that point forward until the end of your natural life – and likely well into eternity – your oldest daughter will constantly be looking for payback. Teenagers often confuse the notion of payback with the process of making really bad decisions so their Dad will be pissed. So I decided against this option.
2) You can lose your sh*t, make her feel terrible and still have to run home get the damn thing.
3) Or you do what I did. You keep calm and using all the strength granted to you by the sweet baby Jesus and the patience you’ve gathered after 14 years of raising kids, you say back to her, “tell me where it is and I’ll be back in 45 minutes no problem.”
Why do you with option 3? Because you’re her Dad and its her first Homecoming Dance and you are not going to be the person who ruins it should it actually be ruined at some point. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined. For either of us. She came home and said, “Best night ever!” when I asked how it went. And we ended up testing a few of the microbrews before settling on the traditional marzen style Octoberfest beer and then heading home and hanging at our neighbor’s – which we have affectionately named “The DT.” It’s short for The Downing Tap and is located in both our neighbor’s garage and driveway. It’s our favorite bar. No lines for the bathrooms. Great parking. There’s a TV. Sometimes they have food delivered. And you can bring you own beers. Which I do. Often. Plus when you’ve had too much, you simply stand up and walk home. Which in our case is about 30 feet.
So I guess that’s a win-win.