Where is he? He’s never late. Ivy wondered. But instead of being upset that her dad hadn’t come yet to pick her up for the weekend, she decided to take the opportunity to relax. It had been a busy week, with soccer practice every night, before-school chamber orchestra practices, a piano lesson, mountains of homework, and the spring art show the previous night.  

Even though she loved hanging out with her dad, she wasn’t really looking forward to the coming weekend. She missed how things used to be with her dad before the divorce, back when it was the two of them hanging out. They’d always gone on lots of adventures together and would laugh the whole time. Her dad could make absolutely anything fun. One of her favorite things to do with her dad was to people-watch in public places. They would make up scenarios and narrate what strangers were thinking or saying. But now, there was always a girlfriend tagging along—and it usually wasn’t the same one. Ivy didn’t feel like she could be herself around any of these women, and she didn’t know why they always had to come along. Ivy thought it was obvious that none of those women were even remotely compatible with her dad. She didn’t know why her dad couldn’t see it. She was convinced that her mom and dad still belonged together; they’d just lost their connection. Everyone else told her that she was just having trouble accepting the reality of the divorce, that she was in denial. 

And lately, thought Ivy, there was the endless nit-picking. When did Dad become such a nitpicker? He would drill her on everything from mundane things like, “Did you brush your teeth?” and “Did you pack your snack?” or “How much water did you drink today?” to “Have you researched any colleges and scholarship opportunities?” I’m fourteen, Dad. Take it easy.

She found herself remembering the time he’d called from Colorado, during a skiing trip with his friends. His first question was about how much fiber I’d had that day, thought Ivy. Who asks that? Not to mention who asks their 14-year-old daughter that? I mean, how socially awkward. Like right away, too, before you talk about normal stuff like what you did that day, or what made you laugh recently? You didn’t ask me what I’d been reading, or what I found interesting? How I’d helped to make the world a better place today? If there is anything on my mind? Nope, none of that. It’s just so weird, Dad. She knew that her dad’s urge to control every detail was just his anxiety popping up, but it wasn’t fun to be around him when he was like that. Her dad just didn’t seem to be happy and it seemed he felt the need to make others feel his unhappiness too, through his constant badgering and complaining that things weren’t quite meeting his unrealistic expectations. 

 He’s never late, so he must have a pretty decent excuse, she decided. She didn’t even feel like doing Instagram, so just closed her eyes and melted into her mom’s awesome couch.