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.