Adding some more gray hairs to my head

Monday, January 16, 2012

As of 5 days ago, I am tempted to slap a few of these stickers on the back of my oh-so-not-cool minivan. My oldest is now a permitted driver and I am watching new gray hairs appear by the minute. That being said, I have to admit that I was the one who encouraged this monumental decision. Quinn had written off the possibility due to his broken collarbone and subsequent recovery. He figured that taking Driver's Ed. would need to be put off until the summer and nothing else was mentioned--even on his 15th birthday. In the state of Washington, if a teenager is enrolled in a driver's training course, he or she is able to get a learner's permit at the age of 15. Otherwise, 15 1/2 is the rule. When we looked at the schedule of one of the local driving school's, it appeared that the class times would conflict with the spring soccer schedule. As I perused other websites I found one that was just 5 weeks as opposed to 7 weeks and would be completed by the end of February. I just did not want to commit to having to stay in town for 5 straight weeks over the summer. At this particular school, if you registered by January 30th, they gave a $50 discount. Done! (when I was 15, driver's ed was part of the school district curriculum as an elective.) I know that I'm the parent and could have fully said no to the experience entirely but something tells me that at this time next year, with my school schedule, I am going to need an additional driver in the house. Also, I figured that it couldn't hurt to have a full 12 months of driving experience under his belt as opposed to six months.

My husband took Quinn to register for the class and to the DMV for his permit. Ian and I took bets on whether Trey would let Quinn drive home from the DMV office. I said "yes." Ian said "no." Score one for Ian. My typically laid back, cavalier, up-for-anything-risky husband has suddenly assumed the role of cautious parent. "I wasn't about to let him drive home in that traffic!" he told us. I still remember the day I got my permit and my typically cautious mother handed me the keys and we took the long way home. Maybe something about this rite of passage causes a role reversal for some reason. After some coaxing, Quinn convinced his father to take him out after dinner. They returned in one piece and still talking to each other. Phew.

Day 2: I got a text as I was getting on the bus: "Can you come get me and let me drive home?" This is all coming back to haunt me. After moving to the passenger seat I suggested we go to McDonald's then go pick up Ben from school. His response: "That's a REALLY sharp turn!" Smile. He maneuvered the turn and mastered the tricky drive-thru experience like a pro. I had to smile inside as I listened to him politely place his order and pay for it. It dawned on me that he had never been the one to speak the order into the microphone at fast food drive thru and it was fun to see him use his manners without a reminder from me. (an unexpected perk) The best part of the experience by far was when we pulled up to the carpool line and saw Ben's reaction to his big brother in the driver's seat. It was priceless. The teacher's did a double take themselves. I pulled out my phone and wrote on Facebook: "sitting in the passenger seat while my son is the driver feels like an out-of-body experience." The best way to describe it is that scene in "Father of the Bride" (circa 1992) when Kimberly Williams tells Steve Martin she is getting married. He has an immediate flashback to his little girl as a 3-year-old uttering the words, "and we're getting married." I just kept staring at my son operating a two ton vehicle and envisioned those days on his Tonka 4 wheeler going 2.5 miles an hour around the yard. It's so very surreal.

That evening he asked to drive again. This time he wanted to pick up a friend and transport them ACROSS TOWN to a rival high school's basketball game IN THE DARK! What have I gotten myself into? I agreed but it suddenly became apparent to me why they (thankfully) passed the law forbidding newly licensed 16-to-18-year-old drivers to have passengers other than family members ride in their vehicle for the first year. As soon as his buddy buckled in, I could see a rapid increase in his acceleration and a little less focus on his surroundings. Yikes!

As the days went on, I see Quinn looking for reasons to drive anytime and anywhere. My husband can't believe that I actually like being the passenger as much as I do. I typically hand over the keys as we walk to the car and it's beginning to feel more natural every day. After fifteen years of shuttling this kid all over town, I am happy to be chauffeured. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to pull down the visor, open the mirror and pluck out those gray hairs....