Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Thunder Rolls

Title from the Garth Brooks song of the the same name.

Thunder sounded through the house last night, as it has done a lot this spring. My wife and I knew what was coming. Shy footsteps arrived a couple of minutes later.

“Where’s the iPad?” our 11-y.o. asked.

“The end table,” I said.

My son hit the button to wake up the iPad and immediately went to what is now his favorite app, an app that holds his interest more than any downloaded game, free or bought: The Weather Channel.

His fingers scrolled through various pages. “The storm will last until 4:30 a.m.” He put the iPad away, then went to what he considers his second bed in the house, the love seat in the master bedroom. He spent the rest of the night there, because he hates storms.

A few Saturdays ago, thunder shook the house, waking my son who ran into our room. “Tornado,” he yelled, and started begging us to go the basement. We groggily moved, knowing he was overreacting but still understanding his concern. Another thunderclap sounded a minute later and the lights flickered before going out. “Tornado,” he screamed again, pleading to go downstairs.

We roused our older son and told him we were going to the basement, as we had done during actual tornado warnings in the area earlier this year. We dressed quickly, grabbing blankets and heading to the one spot in the house that we know is the safest. We sat there for nearly two hours, our battery-operated radio providing periodic weather updates. We were glad that the batteries worked in one of the two flashlights we had stored away for emergencies, and we chilled until the weather report said the warnings were over.

We then woke our younger son, who had fallen asleep in the chair we have downstairs for these times. “It’s over?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “It’s over. We’re going back to bed.”

Part of me wonders if we shouldn’t have played along. He needs to understand when a storm is just a storm, and learn to deal with it.

Yet, he was dealing with it, saving what mattered to him most. His family.

Maybe we’ll try next spring.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Give Me A Brake

About sixteen years ago, my wife and I gave birth to a kid who is now of the legal age to drive.

Let me rephrase that: my wife gave birth to him, after nine months of extremely hard work, while I was there at the beginning and drove her to the hospital after her water broke.

Now, enough time has passed to where society has said he can legally get behind the wheel of moving pieces of metal. I’m not surprised. I knew he would reach this point eventually. What has surprised me, though, is how the process has changed from when I was learning to drive.

When I was his age, learning to drive meant first taking Driver’s Ed, which included a minimum number of hours of road practice with an instructor who had a brake on his side of the vehicle. After completing the mandatory training, I went to the DMV and took a test for my permit. At that point, I was able to drive parental supervision. I drove my mother home from the permit office. That night, my dad took me for a drive around town so I could practice night driving. Eventually, I got my license.

So, it took me aback when I learned that kids get their permits in advance, before taking Driver’s Ed. I thought this backwards, but my son studied and obtained his permit. We practiced in parking lots and I told him he could drive on the road, once he had been through Driver’s Ed and practiced with an instructor that had a brake on his/her side of the car.

His first day of Driver’s Ed was yesterday. During the class, the instructor asked who had experience on the road. Over half the kids did. There were also a number of students who, like my son, had not driven anywhere other than in empty parking lots. The Driver’s Ed instructor gave out homework. The kids who’d only seen parking lots needed to practice on the road before the road portion of Driver’s Ed.

Easy for the instructor to say. The instructor has his own brake.

So, I steeled up my courage and let him drive me home from his scout meeting. The fact that you’re reading this means I made it home alive. He actually had no problems on the road but really spiked my adrenaline trying to navigate our subdivision.

My favorite comedian, Bill Engvall, once commented that their should be a driver’s lane for teenagers “with nothing but mattresses and tires.” He also said that the big bass pounding from inside his vehicle was his foot slamming the passenger side floorboard, trying to hit the brake he wished were there. I have to say I agree. But I can’t stop the car. He’s getting older and I have to learn to let him take the wheel.

Unfortunately, there’s no brake that stops him from growing up either.