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We are teaching our daughter to drive. Yes, it’s terrifying.

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So our daughter Casey is 15, which means here in California she’s old enough to have her driver’s permit.

Hence, she has her driver’s permit.

In the world of parenting, there’s this thing we do that involves exaggerating highs and lows. For example, a young dad might have gotten seven hours of sleep, but when a co-worker asks what the nights are like, he replies, “Man, don’t ask.”

With driving, however, I need not exaggerate: It’s terrifying.

Casey is a good driver. She’s smart, she’s serious, she’s cautious. Save for a slight tendency to drift right, she’s a high-quality beginner at the automotive operational arts. But that doesn’t mean I’m not holding tight on the passenger side, or silently urging myself to calm down, or whimpering beneath my breath. Today, for example, I gave Casey her first taste of highway driving, and while the five-mile stretch was uneventful, I still kept but a single eye open.

More than any fear, however, what’s getting me now is, well, how the hell did we get here? I was skimming through my blog before, searching “Casey” entries, and it was one milestone moment after another after another. The one that got me particularly emotional was this, from eight years ago, when Casey was so thrilled to have me arrive at her camp Olympics. It’s natural and normal and, sigh, fine, but that level of sheer giddiness no longer exists. Casey loves me, and we’re pals, and I truly am giddy over who she is and where she’s heading, but … these days, I’m not really “Daddy,” but plain ol’ Dad.

The guy with the keys.

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