Drivers Beware!


In our I’m a prisoner. My cell is a crusty old Subaru Forester.

Since becoming a parent in 1998, I’ve been prisoner to many things: a breast pump, play dates and homework to name a few. So far, I’ve repeated elementary school, junior high and ninth grade. This is all fine. I enjoy learning and could probably get a higher score on the SAT now.

But nothing…nothing…could have prepared me for the latest milestone.

My son, Sam, turned 15 this year.

With a herd of other 15-year-olds, he attended two weeks of driver’s education through EDI with Mr. Adam Newbloom (who is awesome). Beyond teaching the rules of the road, the instructor showed many videos of horrific accidents to impress upon the students the importance of safety.

When I drove Sam home from class each day, he began saying things like: “You didn’t come to a complete stop, Mom.” “You’re supposed to signal when you change lanes.” “You really shouldn’t text and drive.”

At the completion of the course, Mr. Newbloom held a mandatory meeting for the parents. His take home message: You need to log at least 100 driving hours with your kids after they get a permit. Clean up your own sloppy driving habits and set a good example.

The very next Monday at noon, I drove Sam to the Rochester DMV to take the test for his permit. Unfortunately, the line of people snaked out the door.

My son swallowed his disappointment. We left and returned the next day at 8:30 a.m. We were the first in line.

While Sam took his test, I read a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept wondering how I’d handle the situation if he didn’t pass. I finally decided that pass or fail this experience would be a valuable life lesson for him.

Of course, he passed—86%. The clerks filled out the permit and snapped his picture.

As soon as we stepped out the door, Sam reached for the keys.

“Mom, can I drive home?”

I blinked. My mouth went dry. How could I possibly let him drive? The last time I relinquished control like that—Sam’s first day of kindergarten—he had broken his arm on the playground. I couldn’t go through trauma clinic again.

My grandfather’s voice echoed in my mind: Raising kids is like fishing. You gotta give ’em a little slack, and then reel ’em back in.

But then my brain rebelled: Yeah, while Grandpa was out fishing, Grandma was home raising the kids.

I bit my lip.

“Sam, let’s just start in the parking lot.”

“We’ve done that for months,” he replied.

It was true. During the past year we’d “bent the rules” and practiced in lots all over town.

“How about driving through an easy residential neighborhood?”
I suggested.
“We’ve done that, too,” he extended his hand once more.

The boy had a point, but could I give up the keys? Actually trust my son? Was I nuts?

I gulped and set the keys in his open palm. On shaky legs, I climbed into the passenger seat. The reversal of roles felt freakishly weird
and backwards.

Sam grinned from the driver’s seat: “Buckle up for safety, Mom.”

He started the car, and we lurched out of the parking lot. I gripped the sissy bar the entire way home. In my 15 years of parenting, this was the most out of control I’d ever felt, but my son drove with a confident smile.

Currently, Sam and I have logged over 10 driving hours. His jackrabbit starts and whiplash stops show signs of improvement, but if you pass a crusty silver Subaru with a teen behind the wheel and a frazzled woman in the passenger seat screaming “STOP!” and pumping an imaginary brake pedal, that would be us. Please be kind and give us wide berth.

Oh, and by the way: Make sure to renew your auto insurance. I did.