So, I have a sixteen year old. We all know what that comes with. Its not that he had been pounding down my bedroom door on his actual birthday. In fact it wasn't even his idea to get behind the steering wheel. It was mine. I sat at the department of motor vehicles this past weekend, waiting for Nick to take his driving permit exam. I waited to see him either emerge with a huge smile on his face or the tell tale pale complexion of a kid that did not pass. He was both pale and smiling a bit of a guilty smile. He could only get five wrong and apparently he got the first five very wrong. Luckily for him, he was able to get the rest of his test right. He was official to start learning. I was starting to wonder what I was thinking.
When I was sixteen I did not get my license right out of the gate either. As the first child of four, I had a mass of requirements that I needed to cover before I was allowed to take the test. I had to take the school offered course and all of the hours of driving that came along with that. I had to learn how to maneuver a twelve passenger automatic van. I had to drive Dad's big blue meanie which was a five speed stick on the floor full sized van. It was big blue and quite mean because it was more of a guessing game of where the gears were instead of a normal standard. I was taught by mom how to balance a clutch on a hill and how to parallel park a standard transmission in second gear. I had all of the bases covered, or so I thought. I turned sixteen in February and by the time I had all of my parents driving requirements checked off, it was October. One of the state requirements was that you had to drive a car not a van and it had to be an automatic transmission for your driving exam. My parents did not own one of those so like so many other of my friends, I borrowed my friend Steph's car. It wasn't the first time I had ever driven it but at the time my parents did not know this at the time. My mother reluctantly drove me to her high school where I picked up my test worthy vehicle. We then headed over to take my test.
I passed the written part with only one wrong and sat and waited, and waited, and waited for my driving portion. Apparently I was the last test of the day and everyone at motor vehicles was tired and cranky, the mood mimicked the clouds that were forming in the darkening sky. The kid that had taken his test right before me was my age and he was white as a ghost when he walked back in the door. He had that look that was mixed with shame, regret and horror. I was next. I wasn't feeling so confident.
I am not going to say that it was a difficult test. It all started out rather simple. Go straight here, turn here, stop here. Go down this street and do a "K" turn. I was feeling rather confident until it started to SNOW! Mind you it is October, it was getting dark and it was not supposed to SNOW! My heart was pounding and my test was not over yet. Towards the end of the test I was scared, nervous and focused. At the last light I was going through there was another car that chose to run through their red light that was coming from the other direction and was headed right for me. All I could think of was to hit the gas and get the hell out of there. I took a deep breath, I turned where I was supposed to but I failed, I knew it. The tester never said a word. He just wrote in silence and I made the drive of shame back to the parking lot.
He handed me the paper on entering the testing room and I was so afraid to look. I was white and ghostly for sure and this was going to suck to go to my mom and then my friend with a big FAIL on my forehead. I glanced down at the paper and to my surprise I had PASSED! In the comments section was a note saying that I had not only handled an extreme change in driving conditions but also had taken great care in avoiding an accident.
Back to Nicholas. I took him to get his permit. He had never driven on the actual road before. He had only practiced in the empty school parking lot until now. While I sat there waiting for his ghostly face I was also looking outside at the six inch snow storm we were having. I knew what I had to do. I made him drive me home. Better to have his first experience in snow be controlled and slow. It was better that he was so scared from nearly failing his written practice test. It was better that there were fewer cars on the road. I made him drive and he went slow but did fine.
It is such a frightening rite of passage. It is scary to be the kid who is now not only in charge of his parents vehicle but responsible for the other cars on the road. It is terrifying to be the parent and know that this is one situation where life's lessons are truly a matter of life or death. There is no cheating, no winging it. There is no way to explain to him just how important everything you are saying truly is. So far he is doing just fine. Tonight he drove in the dark and through his first traffic light intersection. I will admit though that I was relieved to have him ask me to take over after that. It is going to take me some time to get used to this. I wonder if I can delay this process by requiring him to drive a standard. We don't own one of those. This could take a while.