So as a parent you think you've seen it all?
Well just when you think that there isn't anything more that could surprise you - it always does. But I think this is the big one. The one that takes the cake so to speak. The one that you can do nothing about. For the first time you are completely out of control, at the mercy of your teen.
Son #1 is driving.
He got his provisional license.
Well, there were so many I'm not sure where to start.
First thought? Good for him. He passed.
Second thought? Crap. He's going to want to go out this weekend.
Next thought? I really could use some help with the driving.
Final thought? Crap. He's going to want to go out this weekend.
Thursday, my husband took him to take his exam. The phone rang shortly after with Son #1 informing me that he had passed. I really was happy for him. Then he returned to school so I didn't get to see him to really congratulate him.
When I went to pick him up from school, I saw him come from the Administrative Building not his normal exit. In his hand he was carrying a white paper. He walked to the passenger side, opened the door, threw his stuff into the back and like every other day for the past year said, "Can I drive?" I relinquished the steering wheel of my BMW again and walked to the other side.
I asked, "What is the white paper?"
He was very excited - "My school parking permit."
While driving he was telling me all about the exam. You know, all of the details about the examiner. His parking. The questions that were asked. He was still very pumped up. I asked him if he would like to go to Rita's to celebrate and he was all in. When I started to tell him where to go, he said - "Mom, I know where Rita's is."
So we drove over to Rita's. Entered the parking lot and parked. After turning off the engine, he kept the keys. This was new. Typically when driving with him, upon parking I would hold my hand out to get my keys. For whatever reason this has always been something he dislikes. To relinquish keys is irritating to him. To allow him to hold onto them is irritating to me. After all, they are MY keys to MY car. But today he put them in his pocket.
We ordered our Rita's and returned to the car to eat. While sitting there I initiated a conversation:
Me: Now that you have your license I have something very important to discuss with you.
Son #1: Yes, Mom, I know - drinking and driving, texting and cell phones...
Me: No, I know you already know all of that stuff. But what I am about to tell you might be the most important and long lasting piece of advice you will receive.
Son #1: Yeah? (He looks at me shifting in the seat, eagerly awaiting my words.)
Me: If you are ever out with a girl and you are driving - even if she is only a friend - I want you to go to her side of the car and unlock the door for her first. Don't go to your side and unlock from there. Girls will appreciate the fact that you didn't leave them hanging in the cold, heat, wind or rain - no girl will ever forget that you unlocked her door before you got in the car. It's called chivalry. It's important.
We joked a bit more and then we headed home. He reminded me that he had received his Learners Permit nearly one year ago to the day. It had been a long process. He was excited and relieved all at once. But me? I kept thinking - It HAS been a year - so why does it feel like yesterday?
Within minutes of being home, he was asking to go out and drive. He asked my husband if he could pick his younger brother up from lacrosse practice. Naturally my husband hesitated.
My daughter bombarded Son #1 with pleas to take her to 7-11 to buy her a Slurpee...
That was it - I had to put an end to the madness. I interjected - "NO!"
My husband walks over to me...
"How do you feel about him going to pick up Son #2?"
I said, "He has his license. We can't tell him that he can't drive."
So we let him go get his brother.
I was sitting on the couch working on my blog, while my husband walked to the front window. He watched Son #1 preparing to drive alone for the first time.
He announced from the other room - play by play.
"Ok. He's in the truck."
"He's putting the windows down."
"He's turned up the radio."
"He's opening the sunroof."
"He's backing out."
"He's driving away."
"I can't see him anymore..."
Then he walks back into the room. "He's out on the road, driving alone, how do you feel about this?"
Me: Well I don't think I like it very much.
Husband: (plops down on the couch, wiping his brow) I don't think I can take this.
I needed to leave to take Daughter to her tap class so I proceeded to get ready. When I returned and was about to leave I looked at my watch.
Me: "They aren't home yet?"
Me: "They've been gone over an hour."
Husband: "Yup. Apparently they've decided to go to Chick Fil A before coming home."
Me: What? They didn't ask to do that!
Husband: Yes, I know!
At that point, I needed to leave. I had to take Daughter to dance. So I left thinking about the fact that my two oldest sons were out in a car alone for the first time together. It really felt terrible.
I called my mother. I told her the story. Her immediate response?
"Oh. God. I hate this part."
"This is really the worst part. I remember. The beginning of waiting and worrying. It never goes away now. I'm sorry to tell you that. But no matter what when they are away you worry."
I phoned my best friend.
Me: "Son #1 got his license today. He's driving. They are out. Alone. Together. In the car..."
Her: Oooooohhhhhh Goooooooosssssshhhhh.
Me: When did this happen? Weren't we just in Gymboree together?
Her: I'm pretty sure that we were. Oh my gosh. How are you?
I kept thinking about the fact that I don't know anyone that between the ages of 17 and 19 that wasn't involved in a car accident of some sort. Even if it wasn't your fault. Even if it's just a fender bender. Sometime during that time frame - it happens.
I texted my best friend from childhood. We had been in a car accident together when we were 18. We were hit by a drunk driver. We were sitting at a stop sign around midnight getting ready to cross into 4 lanes of two way traffic. He plowed into the back of us going 65 miles an hour because he had fallen asleep at the wheel after drinking all day long on his boat on the Chesapeake Bay. He was in a white Chevy passenger van. We were in a tiny little Honda CRX with no backseat. The impact sent us clear across 4 lanes of traffic and the median. We were lucky that no other traffic collided with us. The car was totaled. We both had lasting injuries from the accident. Not to mention it forever changed how I drove. To this day, I still watch my rear view mirror to make sure that the car behind me is going to stop.
When I told her that he had gotten his license that morning, she sent her apologies. Then I told her that he was out with his brother at Chick Fil A. Her response? "Already? Are you crazy?"
Friday morning he awoke and with Son #2 drove to school. Alone. Together. My husband and I didn't have to get up early to shower to get ready. No it was a much lazier morning than that. I resisted the urge to tell him to text me when he got to school. I didn't want to appear to be a Nervous Nelly and right off the bat appear that I didn't believe that he was a good driver. So I did what any decent mother would do - I went to the school database and checked the attendance. Yes - both of them had been accounted for and were in school. There! I knew he had made it and I didn't have to let on that I had any concerns.
So now here I am on a Friday night. Son #1 took the truck and was off longboarding with friends. I watched a thunderstorm roll in. I called him to tell him to think about the storm before he drives home. I am sitting in my family room watching the lightning, listening to the thunder and the raining beating upon the roof. Suddenly, I hear the garage door and Son #1 walks through the door.
Me: I asked you not to drive in the thunderstorm.
Son: No you didn't. You said to think about it. So I did. I was fine.
He certainly was correct. Those were my words. But only because I was trying to pretend that I was giving him more credit than I was. If I had known he was going to drive in the storm I would have been a wreck. Glad I didn't know.
Shortly after he returned, Son #2 received a phone call from friends on the lacrosse team inviting him down to their house. After my husband and I declined to drive him, he immediately turned to his brother.
"Will you please drive me?"
The next thing I knew they were out the door. Again.
My husband went up to bed. But not me.
I sat up and I waited for him to come home.
While waiting I contemplated that since the time that Son #1 received his license on Thursday morning, only 36 hours prior, he had already been in the car alone driving all over the county 6 times. Each time has been nerve-racking.
I am left to wonder if this feeling will wear off? Will there be a time that he gets into the car that I don't begin to calculate his arrival and departure times in my head? Will I forever fight the urge to call him with the weather updates and warnings?
When I was a new teen driver my grandmother would call me to read me the "Police Beat" out of the newspaper. She warned me of all of the high crime areas that I should avoid. She also had me call and do what we referred to as "the signal" when I was finally home. The signal meant that I was to call her and ring once. That meant I am safe. That meant she could go to sleep and not worry that any sirens she had heard were related to me. There would be times that I would forget to call. She would call the house. I would immediately remember that I had forgotten. On the other end of the phone line I would hear, "You forgot to call me. Glad you are okay." She tried to say it sweetly but I knew it was fake and mostly through gritted teeth.
I remember being very annoyed by that. I found her over the top. Her worries were unfounded in my mind. I would roll my eyes and mock her behind her back. Because I was invincible back then. It's interesting how with age we lose that unyielding bravery.
We grow up and have children. The next thing you know a decade or two has passed and you are the one reading the Police Beat, fighting the urge to call on the cell phone, sitting up at night pretending that you are doing other things - while our child feels indestructible.
I wish my grandmother were still alive so I could call her now to tell her that I am sorry and that I now understand what she was trying to do.
But I know that she is watching - hopefully a guardian angel over Son #1 when he takes those keys and echoes those familiar words,
"I'll be back later, Mom."