FAMILY COLUMN: Darren Burke on why journeys with dad are uncool when you're a teen

Darren Burke has lost his teenage son to a smartphone.
Darren Burke has lost his teenage son to a smartphone.
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There’s a TV advert currently doing the rounds that shows a series of mortified teenagers being ferried to school in their parents’ seriously un-cool cars.

Cringing as their mums and dads embarrass them in front of their mates, all that changes when a dad driving a rather swish Volkswagen zooms into view, his daughter beaming with smug pride alongside him.

Of course, owning the smartest set of wheels on the block is swiftly undone when he attempts a fist bump, to the groans and pitying sighs of his less than impressed girl.

As the dad of a teen, it is a scenario that rings painfully true.

My 11-year-old lad is fine with his dad singing along in the car and generally being a bit daft behind the wheel when whizzing from A to Z.

Not so for my 13-year-old.

For starters, Radio 2 is switched off the second he sets foot inside my rather dated Citroen Xsara Picasso, despite my protestations that it actually plays “cool” bands he’s heard of like Kasabian and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Instead, he flicks the dial to Capital, a station which appears to have about three records and one presenter and then it’s a steady diet of, ahem, new music while I am taking him to wherever he needs to go.

Never mind, the music will form a nice backdrop as we have a good old father-son chinwag about school, the news, his mates.

Well, that’s if you consider conversation to be a series of grunts, uttered occasionally, his head instead buried in his phone so he can check what’s happening on Instagram, Snapchat or Oovoo (no, me neither).

When he hit 13, I told him he could have a Facebook account and I went about setting it up for him, hoping that if I couldn’t talk to him in person, at least there was the chance of communicating within the digital world.

As I write this, he’s posted once in about four months and has made his views known to me on several occasions: “Facebook is for old people.”

As for our journeys, singing along to anything is strictly off limits and there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve found myself turning into my own dad and uttering the infamous words: “Call this music? You can’t even make out the words.”

Drop-offs are generally undertaken at the far end of a car park, far from where he needs to be, lest his mates actually catch a glimpse of him climbing out of a vehicle that doesn’t happen to be a Ferrari or Lamborghini (not that their dads have such cars either, of course).

I’ve now come to accept that our journeys will be conducted in near silence, apart from the sounds of some inane DJ informing me of “a massive anthem coming up from the Chainsmokers next” and me scratching my head trying to understand what that actually means.

I’m looking forward to some time in 2022 when communications may be resumed - as long as I’ve upgraded my car to a Porsche by then.

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