Daughter Two usually gets stuck in the back seat.
Rarely does she get the chance to travel up front. One of the many burdens of being the youngest.
Age means she’s third in line to the Honda throne, behind mother and sister.
So there’s something of a celebration, on the rare occasion that just the two of us get to travel together side by side.
It happened on the weekend, and like everything else she does, I reckon it’s worth sharing.
She starts by adjusting the passenger seat controls. Every single one of them. This one forward. Tilt up. Cushion raised.
Of course, she won’t return those settings at trip’s end. Few things infuriate The Treasurer more. She’ll later be forced to impersonate a pretzel on entering the vehicle.
Sitting position set, she then takes down our directions, to remind me later. We’re heading into the city for a function. The Treasurer and The Teenager are already there. We’re the naughty latecomers.
The father/daughter conversation will begin as we leave our street. And it’s the same question every time.
“Dad, why do you always take so long to put your seat belt on?”
It’s true. Another bad habit. I wait until we’ve left our street, before I buckle up. At the same spot up the road every time.
If you happen to be an officer of the law who has strayed onto these pages, the above was totally made up. No need to be waiting for me tomorrow morning.
This thing that I made up angers Daughter Two. She is very safety conscious, and chastises me for my foolishness. “What if we crash, and you die?”
Fair point. I joke that at least she’d be able to walk home while they put the sheet over me. But she’s on a roll.
“Have you ever had a crash? Did you get any cuts and get taken to hospital?” I pause, and decide to invoke Father’s prerogative to make this answer a selective one.
There’ll be no mention of the rear-ender they blamed me for on the Gold Coast. Depending on the availability of court papers, I may or may not have been responsible.
I try to answer cheerily. “Just the one. And it wasn’t my fault. Some idiot ran into me when I was very young. He wrecked my first ever car, and I had to catch the bus for two weeks while they fixed it.”
That was true enough. But she wasn’t finished.
“What happens if the airbags go off? You told me once that kids aren’t allowed in the front seat because they could get hurt.”
The girl can’t remember to take a lunchbox out of her bag on any given day, but recalls some half-assed speech I made years ago. Typical.
I re-assured her that she was older now, and taller. She would be fine. There would be no crash. No airbags.
There’s silence for a while. I imagine she’s compiling a version of my recklessness to tell the family later in the day. She can be quite harsh in such forums. I’m about to issue a new line of defence, when I realise she’s nodded off.
Another of the girl’s remarkable traits. She can fall asleep in an instant, pretty much anywhere. Especially in the car.
It made me think of all the times I’ve carried her to bed at night, slung over a shoulder, from all parts of the house. One of the perks of being a Dad. You get to do the carrying.
This siesta, however, would be a brief one. A song stirred her. On the station she’d changed my radio to. Something else she’s famous for.
“Did you know that Nicki Minaj is the world’s best female rapper? Do you remember this song? You were dancing to it at home last weekend.”
Before I can answer, she starts singing, and dancing. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of the singer, or the song. And your guess is as good as my memory about the quality of my dancing. I respond with polite nodding.
We’re nearly at our destination. Two will soon become four again.
Time for one final question. “Are we staying in a fancy hotel?” For her, fancy means free internet.
I tell her it’s where our function is, so it doesn’t need to be fancy. But I’m pretty sure it has wi-fi.
She’s happy with that. Our trip is done. She will soon boast to The Teenager about getting that front seat.
Dads are easily pleased. We love it when our daughters look after us, and ask questions, and fall asleep, and sing songs we’ve never heard of.
When she was little, I’d pull faces at her in the rear view mirror. She’d laugh, every time. That was when she was in the back seat. Now she’s by my side, I’m the one that’s smiling.