Daddy-daughter diner time

I connect with my teen every Saturday morning over corned beef and eggs

My daughter is allergic to eggs, among other things, so being an excellent dad I take her to a diner every Saturday morning.

You’d think this would make me the worst father ever, but I think it gets me a little closer to nabbing that Parent of the Year sash I’ve so coveted.

I swear I’m not trying to kill her. It’s just that she and I are working our way through every diner in New Hampshire, and unfortunately, that’s where the eggs are. They’re in pancake batter, waffles, and I’m told there are even eggs in omelets now. It’s a bit of a delicate dance, but she’s quite aware of what she can and can’t eat. We’ve managed to avoid any EpiPen adventures or post-breakfast detours to the emergency room.

It’s easy enough to stay safe because we both get the same exact thing no matter where our Saturday morning travels take us. It’s the unalterable control in our weekly experiment: I get two eggs scrambled with white toast and coffee, and she gets a side of corned beef hash and tea – for science. It mitigates the allergy risk and lets us judge each diner on its own merits.

Her mom will join us occasionally, but she usually sleeps in a bit. I can respect that; it’s just that I’m an early riser – always have been – and I don’t want to sit alone. So I rouse the kid around 6 a.m. and we get on our way. We’re up and out barely ahead of the sun, heading to exotic and far-flung locales ranging from Hampstead to East Hampstead.

People, no doubt impressed by my parenting skills, sometimes ask, “How do you get a teenager out of bed so early on a weekend?”

I’ll let you in on my secret: I open her bedroom door and say, “Get up.” Then she does.

It’s become something I look forward to every week. By the time I go to sleep Friday night, I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. I know that in just a few hours I’ll be heading off to get some early morning sustenance with my daughter. We’ll talk – because she’s not allowed to be a sullen teen on our early morning routine – and we’ll end up laughing hysterically at something that’s usually really weird.

This past weekend we came up with a plan to open our own diner called “Pop’s,” where we’ll only serve things with “pop” in the name – Pop-Tarts, popcorn, popovers and Pop Rocks. After a minute or two of brainstorming, we concluded that we had explored the menu fully and should leave the restauranting to the professionals.

When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were all about “Land of the Lost,” cereal and youth hockey games. As an adult, it became a time when we could get errands done. Now, Saturdays are the time when I get to spend an hour with my daughter – talking, laughing and forgetting pretty much anything outside our corner booth. 

Bill Burke is a writer who lives with his wife and daughter in southern New Hampshire near many, many diners. He is also the managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.

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