By In Family

An Evening Drive

She’s 14 now, a turbulent age. Everyone had warned us. There will be times when she’s still your little girl, they said. And there will be other times when she lashes out with such fury, you will wonder where everything had gone wrong. Everyone warned us, and we believed them. We had planning sessions about the future, talks about patience and openness and firmness when needed.

We were ready.

We weren’t ready.

Athletes will tell you that in their first professional game, everything moves impossibly fast, there is no possible way to prepare for the speed and fury and violence of it all.

We were ready.

We weren’t ready.

She walks into the car. It is night time, and I’m picking her up from an activity, and she is happy. She used to always be happy. Now it’s a 50-50 proposition. She shows me a picture she wants to post on Instagram of her and a friend. She asks if it’s OK. I tell her it’s OK. I don’t know if it’s OK; I’m trying hard to keep up with the rules. She is happy.

We sit in the car, and we are stuck at a red light because of the indecision of the car in front of us. I growl at this car. She laughs and growls too. I remember when she was a baby, she would make these funny growling sounds. We once took her to a spring training baseball game in Florida, and it was unseasonably cold, and we had her bundled up in this baby blanket. Every now and again, from the blanket, there would be a loud, “Rahhhhrrrrrrr,” and people in the few rows in front of us would look back to see who or what was making that sound.

The light turns green. We talk about nothing. It is pleasing for a moment not to be asking her about school or homework or friends and pleasing for her for a moment not to be talking about any of it. The air is cool, perfect, and the windows are cracked and “Video Kills the Radio Star” plays on the radio. “I like this song,” she said. I tell her that years ago I did lists with friends Tommy and Chuck of our favorite hundred songs, and this was on it.

“Would it be now?” she asks.

She’s in a curious mood. She used to be curious all the time. “Tell me a story of when you were a little boy,” she would say. She does not say that much now. Curiosity for a teenager is a sign of vulnerability, a too-eager admission that there are things she doesn’t know. I remember that feeling. She yells sometimes, “I don’t need your help!” I remember that. She yells, “Get away from me! You don’t understand!” I remember that. She yells, “It doesn’t matter, I’m going to fail anyway.” I remember that most of all.

She has little interest in remembering. For her, the clock moves forward, and she wants to look forward — so much out there. In a year, she will be in high school. In two years she will be able to drive. In three years she will start looking hard at colleges. In four years she will be a senior in high school. Forward. Always forward.

And I look back. Always back. I am carrying her, her tiny head on my shoulder, and I’m singing “Here Comes the Sun,” trying to get her to fall asleep. I am walking with her through the gift shop at Harry Potter World as she hopelessly goes back and forth between wanting a stuffed owl or a Gryffindor bag. I am helping her with math back when the math was easy enough I could figure the answers in my head. I am watching, “Princess Bride” with her the first time, and in her squeaky voice I hear her tweet, “Have fun storming the castle!”

“Hey Dad,” she says, “Can I have your phone? Can I play some music?”

“Sure,” I say, and I give her the phone. She punches a few buttons easily — this technology comes second nature to her generation. They don’t need instructions. They just know.

The song begins and immediately I know. It’s her favorite song.

I once knew a girl
In the years of my youth
With eyes like the summer
All beauty and truth
In the morning I fled
Left a note and it read
Someday. You will. Be Loved.

I introduced her to this song a while ago. “What kind of music would I like?” she had asked. “Why don’t we try some Death Cab for Cutie?” I said. She was smitten. She is smitten now. She sings along to every word.  I do too.

You may feel alone
when you’re falling asleep
And every time tears
roll down your cheeks
But I know your heart, belongs
to someone you’ve yet to meet.
Someday. You will. Be loved.

She looks up at me and smiles. Her teeth are straight; the braces are gone. She leans closer to me and says, “Don’t you love this song Daddy?” I hear her say “Daddy,” and think back to a time when she raced over to me at the airport after I returned and hugged and wouldn’t let go. She’s 14 now, a turbulent age. Tomorrow, she may look right through me. But now, in the coolness of the evening, she smiles at me, and holds my hand, and we sing with Death Cab for Cutie. We are off key. We are off key together.

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49 Responses to An Evening Drive

  1. Frank Evans says:

    I still have these moments with my little girl. She’s 26 now. About to be married. The moments don’t come as often as they once did, and they don’t linger as long. I treasure every one as the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

  2. Tim Hart says:

    Wow. That’s good.

  3. Matt says:

    Thank you, Joe. Don’t ever stop writing about family. Just thank you.

  4. Rick Johnson says:

    I still remember your essay about her on September 12, 2001.

  5. PhilM says:

    From one dad to another, thanks.

  6. My favorites are these ones about your girls. Thank you.

  7. greg says:

    Good stuff, Joe. My daughter hits high school next year, too.

  8. Steve K (A Park Hill dad!) says:

    My boys are both married now, but your article brought back some very precious memories.
    Thanks, Joe!

  9. bake mcbride says:

    Beautiful, Joe

  10. Joy says:

    Oh Joe….you got me. I’ve always loved it when you write about your girls because they are nearly the same age as my two girls. Like you, I’m learning to appreciate the times I still see peaks of my baby girl in this beautiful young woman emerging in front of my eyes…..and I got one tonight when she spiked the ball over the net at our volleyball game (I’m her 8th grade coach) and it went out of bounds. She looked at me like my vulnerable little girl. Obviously, I said something coach-ish like, “square your body to the net” or “shake it off and get the next one”….and the game went on. But that look…..that look will always get me. It will always remind me that my husband and I were her first audience, even when she’s convinced we know nothing and can never understand her problems. That look will remind me that deep down she needs us just to love her… we always will.

  11. I really would like to read a non sports novel of yours. I think you have something great inside.

  12. pablopdx says:

    So good, Joe. This one got me. Ready, yet not ready. I have a boy, no girls, but I can almost imagine what that look did for you. And I’d buy that novel. With a copy for my friends.

  13. NevadaMark says:


  14. nickolai says:

    G-dammit Joe. So beautiful, but at the same time terrifying. My girls at 5 and 3 now, and I don’t want to face any future when they are no longer my little girls, even for an instant.

  15. wogggs says:

    The thing is, Joe, my daughter, as you know, is 4. She tells me to go away and that she can do it herself all the time. I guess it’s not going to get better. At least she knows to say “Go Bears” and to hiss at people wearing red.

  16. Ronee Klotz-Groff says:

    And I look back. I see my Dad open the door and I jump into his arms. I have been waiting
    for him to come home. I remember life’s ride of baby girl to little girl running out onto the
    basketball court in New Mexico and Dad laughing with delight at my antics and years later
    telling others the story of my wanting to play with Dad on the basketball court.

    I look back. I am a miserable teen with an oppositional frown and a I think I know before my
    folks-everything. But my Dad is patient and loving and sweet and makes a bad day feel right. When he is home and the treat of him being off tour brings him back to me and us.

    I look back. To the pride in his eyes as high school, college, marriage, motherhood and grandmomhood all come to my life and his. And he is always reassuring and his hugs always feel just right, my Dad.

    I look out. And I wave to him and say “Dad, your on the road again. A song we sang
    together. Your forever pickup game is waiting and your friends are suited up waiting for you.
    I miss you already.” And he is gone, my Dad.

    All the memories along the way and all the hugs remain with us until our time. I think of my
    Dad all the time and I smile and look to the door and am forever hoping that it will open and
    he will step in and I will jump into his arms for that special Daddy little girl hug. But this time
    the door will open and he will be standing on the other side waiting to give me a forever hug.

    Thank you Joe. You have captured us through the universal experience of parenting through
    life and the genius of your gift for writing through your heart.

  17. Ron says:

    C’mon, man, I can’t handle this first thing in the morning before I get my daughter ready for first grade.

  18. Amie W Logan says:

    It appears I have something in my eye. my daughter is just two, but I know these days are ahead. Thank you for sharing such a perfect evening with us. You are a good Dad(dy),

  19. Faith says:

    This. All of it is so spot-on. Thank you for saying what we, as parents, are tearfully (thank you very much) are thinking. She sounds like a lovely girl with a pretty fantastic dad.

  20. marima07 says:

    Thanks for this, although it will be easier to simply claim allergies made my eyes red this morning. You captured this period of life perfectly. My ‘baby’ girl is 19 and back in NY at college. The house is calmer, taking a breather, gearing up for her bursts of physical and emotional energy to come storming back at Thanksgiving. I miss her something fierce.

  21. Brian says:

    What a great read. Especially for this father of an 8th grade daughter that is growing up way too fast. …for me!

  22. Bob Peterson says:

    I just finished selecting my set of pictures of my daughter’s wedding. She was the volatile one, even more than the other one. Grown up now, but still my girl. Wonderful poetry, Joe. And I’d buy that novel, too.

  23. dlf9 says:

    Wow! Thank you.

  24. Marc Schneider says:

    Great article, Joe. My daughter is now a junior in college at Barnard and an RA in her dorm. I tell everyone I know with small kids, enjoy every moment because it goes by sooo fast. The screensaver on my computer has her first day in kindergarten. But when she became a teenager, things would just explode out of nowhere. With boys, puberty is easy; with girls, obviously not.

  25. poorplayer says:

    She’s 34, and she doesn’t like her job, which doesn’t pay much. She’s been with the same man for 11 years but she won’t marry him. She can’t pay the vet bills for her dying dog. They may have to move out of their current apartment because the roommate they took in lost her job, and they can’t afford the place without her share of the rent. I’m not a grandfather yet, and perhaps I may never be.

    And she’s still Princess, and I’m still PapaBear.

  26. Dave B says:

    My daughter is 18 months, and I am not looking forward to the teen years! I’d better enjoy the pre-teen years whilst I can.

  27. Jeff Circle says:

    She’s 13 now, and “Daddy” has been more often than not replaced with “Da-aaaa-aaaa-dd-uh!” But all too infrequently now, when she’s tired or having a bad day or her friend a couple of houses away is being mean again, she still snuggles up to me like she used to, and it makes my whole world better. Thanks Joe.

  28. Ross Hansen says:

    Made me cry Joe-thank you 🙂

  29. Chris Vitek says:

    My daughter is 12. I know exactly what you are talking about.

  30. Jim says:

    Mine also has a high Value Over Replacement Daughter.

    • Dan says:

      One part of me thinks, that’s like saying your Picasso has a high Value Over Replacement Picasso.

      The other part of me thinks, what would a Replacement Daughter be like, by analogy to a player you could pick up on the waiver wire? My sister has three kids through adoption, and they’re all pretty awesome. I would suspect their traditional stats – Homework Average, Hugs/Tantrum, Years Off Lifespan, etc. are every bit as impressive as any other kid’s.

  31. Scott Behson says:

    Joe. I am one of the founding members of a group of dad bloggers, which now has over 1000 members. We share our work, ideas and shoot the shit on a closed Facebook group.

    I’ve always loved your fatherhood-related writing as much as your writing on baseball. We’d love to have you in the group if you’d like. I presume you can contact me through my login for this comment. If not, I’d be happy for us to get in touch. Please give it some thought.

  32. Richard says:

    This is proof that Joe isn’t just a great sportswriter, but a great Writer.

  33. Hamster Huey says:

    Wow. Longtime reader, though I mostly comment sparingly when I have some random bone to pick with some blog post, which is a supremely unfair characterization of my overall reaction to your (or should I say Joe’s? does he read these?) writing.

    But this one… our first child is due literally any day now. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t know gender yet, but I got outvoted 1-1 on this one, so I know we’re having a daughter, too. And I just got misty at work reading this. Amazing. And thanks to all the BRs for sharing your stories too. I have no idea what we’re in for, and I can’t wait.

  34. Timothy says:

    My oldest is also a daughter, 14. I gave her a new nickname, ‘Drama’. I get the disrespectful eye roll.s

    She gets prettier every day. She was the fattest of my 3 kids, but no more baby fat. She is the only Red Sox fan in her New York City school. When the homers crowd around her and ask why, she replies with authority: Because they win.

    They grow up so fast.

  35. Jay Talwalkar says:

    We have the same situation, Joe, and you described it perfectly. Thank you for sharing this with the world.

  36. Dennis says:

    Just beautiful, Joe. I have two daughters in high school who have been blessings since the day they were born; you perfectly captured the complexity associated with helping them grow and wishing time would stand still.

  37. askyermom says:

    Beautiful!! Thank you!! My youngest is fourteen now and very much of the hot-and-cold variety too. Her sisters weren’t this turbulent or vocal. I usually love it that she’s so very frank, until I don’t 🙂

    I’m going to suggest Death Cab for Cutie to her, so your job is done!!

  38. Mike from Pittsburgh says:

    Dear Mr. Posnanski,

    This morning, I woke in the quiet early dark, as usual, and, not quite as usual, got to spend a moment of breakfast time with our daughter before she hustled off for the school bus. She, too, is 14, though her first name isn’t Elizabeth. (Her middle name is.) Being able to share a few such quiet moments with her are a gift, albeit fleeting; a kind of blessing.

    A gift, too, is being able to share great writing with her. I’ve not quite extricated her from her Hunger Games/Divergent phase yet, but have made some inroads, with stories and essays of Dickens, Twain and, yes, Posnanski. We read and reread some of your work, and I admire the skill and thoughtfulness, humility and grace so often evident in it. I thank you for sharing your gift with us, and am grateful we can share it with our children. It is welcome in a world too often coarse and vulgar, mean and dark.

    This morning, though, she was in a remarkably good mood. Catching her in such a mood at this age is, as you say, rather hit or miss, causing us to wonder, in a way,
    Do they care?
    Is it true?
    Some days they don’t.
    And some days they do.

    Today, she did. I was grateful for that. I hope that we can do enough for her, teach her enough, instill enough love or joy or a bit of magic in her, that it will support her out there in the muggle world, especially on those inevitable days that won’t be quite so good.

    The bus was coming. And, as she skipped out the door and down the steps, she sang out “‘Bye, Daddy!,” with a wonderful spring in her voice.

    That “Daddy” struck me; I love hearing it (though it doesn’t come as often now), and will never tire of it. I smiled.
    Just at that moment – I mean, right at that moment – I got a text from a dear friend (who has a daughter of his own), letting me know there was a good new Posnanski post.

    I looked forward to reading it, but later. Just then it was time to get to work – for her, for our family. To be able to work for them is a gift, too, and I gratefully turned back to the house, with “Daddy” still singing in my ears, just as, yes, the darkness turned to light.

    Thank you, Mr. Posnanski, for everything.

  39. Anthony says:

    I visit the blog often and read virtually all your posts but this one got to me more than I could have expected. I have a 13 year old daughter myself and so much of what you write and feel (your feelings come through in your writing…a true gift) I feel every day. Is it ok to ask a question? Will I get a rare hug?

    It is an amazing thing to watch your child grow up but it is also extremely bittersweet, almost sad. I find myself longing for the days when she and her 15 year old brother needed me for everything…looking back as you perfectly put it.

    Thank you for this post because you gave words to feelings I have each and every day.

  40. I don’t think it’s that different with boys, it just hits a little later. The worst is senior year in high school when they have one foot out the door (the male crescendo of the teen years). They have a few days where they are playful & talkative, but most days they will argue that white is black…. that is if you say white is white. With boys, anyway, it gets better once they are out of the house for a year or two. Life kicks them in the teeth a few times & suddenly they realize they DON’T know everything, and life WAS pretty good when Mom & Dad took care of everything.

    But son or daughter, we should realize that their separating from us is a GOOD thing. They should separate from us, and they are really unconsciously (and naturally) doing just that in their teen years. We need to let them separate. Trying to hang on tight is the wrong strategy, that is too often how parents approach it. It’s not a good thing if they’re living in our basements at age 25 playing video games with a part time waiter/waitress job.

    Yes, you need to parent. No, you don’t need to cave into every silly “demand”. Yes, you need to let them start to separate and make their own decisions, wherever possible. If you kid is still at home in their mid to late 20s and you’re wondering why. Look in the mirror. You’re the one that will help them be self sufficient, largely by letting them separate and learn to do things for themselves. Let them make their own doctors appointments, get the oil changed, pump gas, pay their rent, cook their meals. Let them date idiots. They have to figure some things out if they are ever going to be independent. Yes, it’s painful watching them make dumb decisions, but it’s all part of the process of growing up.

  41. dontknowmuch says:

    Two things –

    1. After she reads this blog entry, be prepared for the fury or silent treatment. My guess is you won’t be ready.
    2. Just remember, the wheel of life keeps spinning. You had your time, this is hers. It will all work out the way it’s supposed to.

  42. shagster says:

    Daughters, happily, own their fathers.
    Sons seem a wilier and warier beast.

    I’ve gotten both to play sports. One likes the social aspect of a Team, couldn’t care less about their individual play. The other won’t play if they don’t individually score.

    Mom, for her part, doesn’t give two cents for sports. Her brother was apathetic about sports too, and now he’s a dotcom rock star.

    Quite a chemistry project.

  43. […] • NBC’s Joe Posnanski takes a drive with his 14-year-old daughter. […]

  44. Jeff A. says:

    You’re a great writer, Joe. Thanks for sharing these occasional non-sports posts with us. And for the record, I’d buy that book, too.

  45. Timothy houton says:

    what’s the theme?

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