I was poking around in my office and found the following article I wrote for publication when my oldest was learning to drive. I thought that because lots of parents are going through the same experience this summer, my experience might sound familiar. Please bear in mind that this was written about 20 years ago.
Who Has the Car Keys?
©Mollie Pearce McKibbon
I remember my oldest child bouncing up and down in glee in the first set of wheels we ever gave him – the walker. Oh yes, I know they are no longer considered safe, but in those days of ignorant bliss they seemed like a good idea. We were eager for our firstborn to do everything for the first time. We wanted him to be a paragon of babyhood. We chortled in delight when he smiled his first smile; boasted when he said his first word, and burst with pride at his very first step. What did we know?
He loved the walker. Suddenly, he could keep up with us, even overtake us and lead the way. A gleam came into his eyes. Like Toad from Wind in the Willows , he had discovered speed!
Of course, he had his upsets and collisions. Our toes suffered and so did the furniture. Squashed toes and scratches didn’t daunt him. He was King of the Road.
There was another drawback to all this newfound mobility. We couldn’t always keep up to him and he was able to reach places he couldn’t reach before. We had to head him off many times and soon our good breakables went up on higher shelves. He didn’t mind, He kept on motoring. We were exhausted.
By Child Number Two, we had figured out that we needn’t be in a hurry to see smiling, talking or walking. We decided we could wait until Child Number Two was at least eighteen or even twenty-nine. He, however, had a different time table. He smiled immediately, and started pulling himself up on the furniture by seven months and was walking on his own, albeit somewhat tipsily, by ten months. He seemed to go from the walker to the two wheeler in the blink of an eye. No older brother was going to outpace him!
By Child Number Three, we wondered if playpens made out of steel girders were the answer. Child Number Four, our only daughter, smiled sweetly at us and said, “Eat my dust!” We still are.
Now we are discovering the results of all those firsts. The first smile leads to the first love. The first word leads to the first date. The first step leads directly to Drivers’ Ed.
The campaign starts in third grade and gets going in earnest by grade nine. By grade ten, the boys have figured out that all the girls in their own age group are interested in older boys with cars. Therefore, they come to the conclusion that they need a car so that they can be one of the older boys in grade eleven.
It’s amazing how many ways driving can be fit into any parent/child conversation.
“Mom, may I have another glass of milk? You know, when I get my license you will never have to run out of milk because I’ll just hop into the car for you and go to the store.”
“Any time you and Dad, want to go on a holiday, I’ll be able to help drive.”
And on and on.
O the disgrace of the teenage non-driver! Being seen in the back seat of the family car is like admitting to still sleeping with a teddy bear. At sixteen, it just isn’t done.
Mothers and fathers remember about being sixteen or seventeen and having a car. There are hazards involved. Gasoline prices. Auto insurance. Drag races. Drive-in movies.
My first thought was that I had enough grey hairs to pluck as it was. I still had anxiety attacks when our oldest rode his bike to the corner store. How would I make it through ten weeks of Drivers’ Ed?
It hasn’t been easy. I find that now my own driving is under constant scrutiny. I haven’t lost a passenger, I’ve just gained a backseat driver. My car is now “Our Car”. I don’t back up properly and I can’t park worth a darn. On the other hand, there is one positive result of Drivers’ Ed. I pray a lot more.
Child Number One is about four weeks from his license and Child Number Two is already beginning to drop references to front wheel drive into casual conversation. With his past record, he will probably hand us his license on his sixteenth birthday. I’m locking up Child Number Three and Child Number Four until we turn eighty. By then, I’ll be used to grey hair and, besides, by then like Miss Daisy, I’ll be needing a chauffeur.
Back to the present: it might soothe those suffering parents out there to know that all my children have their full licenses now and are responsible adult drivers. Whew!