There are so many milestones in childhood that come and go, usually with great fanfare (at least when it’s YOUR kid). First smile, first steps, first time on a bike, first day at school… these are all met with smiles, video cameras, phone calls to Grandma and notations in the baby book.
We celebrate each new step towards independence too. That first day at school starts a whole string of “firsts” that slowly push them out into the world without 24/7 supervision. I enjoyed each of these in their own time, snapping pictures and crossing them off my mental mommy list.
And then he got his learner’s permit.
At first this sounded like wonderful mother/son bonding. We’ll be in the car for 50 hours of practice time! We can laugh and talk, just like when he was younger!
And then we went out for the first time.
My perceptions of how close the curb is, how close we are to cars parked on the side of the road and how closely we are passing the cars in the oncoming lanes are VERY different when I am the passenger and my son is driving. I try to remain calm (“Honey, watch for that stop sign ahead.”) when on the inside I am not (“STOP! THE LIGHT IS RED! WATCH OUT FOR THE CAT!”). Being the control freak that I am, I find myself looking for something to do with my hands, since I can’t grab the wheel or use the turn signals. I try to keep them folded in my lap, but my inner urge to survive kicks in and I have to grab the door panel.
At times, this has been before we have even left the driveway.
There are so many things about driving that become second nature after a few years. I can drive anywhere in town that I need to go while at the same time memorizing my grocery list and listening to talk radio. I don’t have to think about the rules at a four-way stop or that I need to yield to oncoming traffic when making a left turn on green. I just do it. Now I have to think about the rules, and the whole outing becomes a complete recitation of the DMV Driver’s Handbook.
This isn’t the mother/son chatting I was envisioning.
There are quiet moments while we are out, when I am sure my son is breathing a sigh of relief (She finally shut up!). These are times when we are on a long stretch of road, with no stop signs, lane changes or crosswalks. Even then, I think there should be something I could point out (“The bumps in the middle of the road are called Botts’ Dots.” or “Did you know it would take us 11 hours to drive to Vegas?”).
We still have many hours to practice before the final exam for his license. My son? He’s doing great with the driving.
It’s his mother who needs some more practice.