Driving

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There is something about being out on the road with a brand new driver that imparts a thrill greater than any amusement park ride anyone could ever dream up.

As you barrel through town at speeds ranging anywhere from 2 to 72 miles an hour, you have absolutely no idea whether the car you are riding in will clip the mailbox on the side of the road, toppling it over, or veer into the center lane straight into the path of oncoming traffic. You have no idea if the car is going to come to a halt before it reaches the vehicle stopped at the red light just ahead of you, or… not.

In my state, there is no need to pass a test before taking the wheel. Children reach a magical age determined by a handful of stressed-out lawmakers at the end of a long day of deliberating on important issues, they grab their birth certificate, and hop in the driver’s seat. No permit necessary. And when they first take the wheel, the entire extent of their knowledge of the laws of the road is gleaned from years of sitting in the back of the mommy-van staring out the window. Truth be told, if you really think about it, it’s a frightening prospect.

And yet, this is my present reality. Each day, I drive my car to the high school in time to meet the students as they exit the school following theater practice. I dutifully move to the passenger seat to become a passive observer in the vehicle which I pay for and on which I cover all the expenses. (And to think, I once thought handing over a $300 pair of eyeglasses to a three year old was a big deal….)

As my daughter gets in, the first thing she does is move the seat three feet closer to the steering wheel and adjust all of the mirrors accordingly. Her older brother and I are close enough in size that I barely notice when he drives my car, so this is a novelty for me. The first morning after she was on the road, I had forgotten she was the most recent driver, and I hit my head on the door-frame trying to squeeze myself between the seat and the steering wheel. Now, I am a bit more astute about noticing the seat position before I attempt to get in.

I have been down this road before, but I had forgotten just how much my muscles tense and my blood pressure spikes when I am in the car with an inexperienced driver. In this situation, I am the adult; I am in control, and yet, I have no control whatsoever. I can scream all I want, but that doesn’t mean the car is going to stop.

Like childbirth, I had pushed the memory of the first-time driver deep into the recesses of my brain, and it was not until I was riding in my own car on the roads with child number two at the wheel when the memories, the physical reactions, the FEAR came flooding back. (I try to keep the fear to myself. At least until this blog post.)

Someone once told me that one of the great uncertainties of life is having a baby without finding out the gender before it is born. I beg to differ. One of the greatest uncertainties in life, if not the greatest uncertainty, is getting into the car with your teenager. You just never know how that is going to turn out. I’m hoping I’ll survive this one. And the next….

Brunch Party

My friend Jacqueline is holding a blogging brunch party today. Check it out and join us:

http://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/2016/03/19/brunch-party-time-live-link-its-a-party

Sweatshirt?

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Spring has come early to these parts, but that doesn’t mean spring is here to stay; it comes and goes. In fact, the weather is so volatile lately that we might experience the entire range of four seasons within a span of days. Or hours. Last week, it seemed as though spring had settled in, but this week’s raw temperatures have mixed with precipitation that reminds me the calendar still says March. But last week’s weather spoiled us. And the more inexperienced among us have shed our thick outer layers in favor of the freedom of a sweatshirt.

Then again, the teens among us shed their jackets with abandon long ago, and only wear such heavy garments when it is cold. Really cold. While I am more comfortable when I am bundled up, my young friends (the male ones, in particular) tend to believe a sweatshirt is enough unless the mercury dips into the single digits (and in these parts, we still measure in Fahrenheit).

Last night, we stepped outside the house on the way to a Scout meeting. My youngest was in a sweatshirt, the sight of which was making me shiver. “It’s 37 degrees,” I informed him. “You should be wearing a jacket.” This information was imparted merely for the purpose of informing him. I had no thought that he would actually care, much less do anything to rectify the situation.

“That’s funny,” he retorted. “That’s the same argument I was going to use about not needing a jacket.” Ah, to be young and numb to the cold.

I picked him up at the meeting two hours later. The temperature had dipped closer to freezing, and it was raining. As we stepped out of the building, his tough exterior crumbled for half a second, and his weakness slipped through. His immediate reaction was the statement, “It is very cold out here!”

I bit my tongue to stifle the I-told-you-so that was tumbling at warp speed toward the front of my mouth, and when I looked at him, he was already back-pedaling. “Wait, that’s not what I meant….”

“I know,” I said, swallowing hard to keep my mother-words down. “It’s not cold out here. You meant to say, Oh look, it’s raining!

“Yep. That’s exactly what I meant!” he snickered.

We walked the rest of the way to the car in silence. Sometimes the obvious is better left unsaid.

Cleaning the Closet

I can always tell when my daughter’s schedule gets too busy. She doesn’t take the time to put her clothes away, so her clean clothes are deposited into a growing pile over the course of a couple of weeks. Eventually, the pile begins to rival Mt. Everest until she has time, and the items are wrangled, sorted, and deposited in their proper locations.

Admittedly, the past few weeks have been crazier than usual with too many activities, long term assignments, and planning for the months ahead. With the number of hectic weekends, her bedroom recently required some mountain-taming.

Yesterday, after sleeping off her 21 hour day on Saturday, she tackled the task of taming the mountainous terrains spreading across her bedroom floor. She started with her closet, which needed a bit of organizing to accommodate the extra articles of clothing she had acquired from her step-sister on a recent visit. She sorted through all her clothes; deposited the too-small items on my bed; asked for extra hangers; and got everything sorted and put away. When she was done, she was pleased with her work.

“Hey, Mom, come look at my closet!” While I was anxious to see the result, in retrospect, one might think that inviting me would not be such a good suggestion, given the circumstances.

“Nice!” I complimented her effort. “It looks great!” But then I spotted something peeking out from between the plaid flannel—a sleeve of white lace hung proudly, as if it belonged there. “Oh hey, that’s my shirt,” I pointed.

“Yeah,” she agreed, drawing out the word in hesitation. “I gave everything else back, but that’s pretty much mine now.”

“That’s interesting.” I paused, waiting for her to fill in with–oh, I don’t know, a request maybe? Nothing. “I don’t remember giving that shirt to you.”

“Um… okay, I stole it,” she admitted. “But you’re welcome to borrow it any time!”

I’m welcome to borrow it. My shirt. Of course.

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Art vs. Science

There is a story I tell my children about self-advocacy. It is a story from my own high school experience, and though the story is antiquated due to my advancing age (at least in their minds), the story still resonates with them. As it is time to register for classes for the coming academic year, the story has come up once again.

Within the education system, there is a path that each student is expected to follow—the “cookie-cutter” path that allows guidance counselors and teachers to quickly check boxes and sign forms, moving kids through the system with the confidence that they are getting what they need. A student’s expected path depends upon post high school plans. (Because in high school, you know the direction your life will go.) If a student is planning to go to college, s/he is expected to take the “college prep” path. Those with more rigorous college aspirations demand an “honors” or “AP” path while those who are planning to go to trade school or get a job might choose either a standard or vocational path.

Each path comes with expectations for the courses that students should take along the way. And therein lies the problem. It has been my experience that this cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work for all students. It didn’t work for me when I was in high school. But back in my day, it was more difficult to stray.

Before my freshman year of high school, I sat down with my guidance counselor. Back in the day, guidance counselors knew each of their assigned students and did both course planning and college counseling. (What they do now, I have no idea and even less evidence, but that’s a story for another post….) My counselor listed the courses I would take my freshman year.

“What is this? ‘Earth Science’?” I questioned. “And why do I have to take it?”

“You’re college prep,” he informed me, as if I didn’t know. “That’s what college prep students take.”

“Why, exactly, do I have to take this class?” I tried again.

“Because you are college prep, and colleges like to see science courses,” he informed me.

“How many science courses?” I asked.

“At lease two, but definitely biology and chemistry. Physics is good, too.”

“So… where does Earth Science fit into that?” I pressed. “It almost seems that ‘Earth Science’ is not a required course. I’d like to take art instead.”

He stared at me, as if I had just slapped him. “I’m sorry. Did you say ‘art’?”

“Yes. Art. This one right here,” I pointed to Studio Art on the course offerings list.

He began to shuffle the papers on his desk dismissively, as if ignoring me would make me go away. “That’s not the usual course of studies,” he informed me without looking up.

I’m not the usual college prep kid, I wanted to say, but instead, I merely said, “That’s okay. I’ll take biology as a sophomore.”

He studied me intently for another 20 seconds before he signed off on my unusual course of study.

Sophomore year, I took biology, and junior year, I took chemistry. But at the end of junior year, I was back in his office. By now (three years later), he knew who I was and what mattered. To me. “Suzanne,” he greeted me. “What brings you in?”

“Physics,” I stated bluntly, shoving my course selection sheet across his desk. He sighed deeply, his shoulders slouching in defeat.

“Art?” he questioned.

“You got it!” I smiled. He signed off on my senior year course choice without further discussion.

Funny… I got into college without those extra two science credits. I continued my art path through college. To this day, I have no regrets. I seldom use science in the strict, “science” sense, but I have used art all my life.

This week, my daughter texted me a picture from her course of studies booklet. She is contemplating an interdisciplinary course, “Art of Science.” Now that’s a science course I could delve into!

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Heat

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The other day—the last day of February, to be exact—I was driving my two younger children to an 8:00 am appointment. It is a sad truth that the last day of February in northern New England is seldom warm, even the occasional Leap Day, as it was.

But it was morning, and I had been running around before I got in the car. I was also stressed because we had been in a hurry to get out the door to meet the time constraints of the requisite appointments. And because I was stressed, I was warm. I cracked open the car window to get some air.

“Oh no, Mom! Close the window!” my daughter groaned from the passenger seat. “It’s cold in here!”

Now, before I continue, let me fill you in on a bit of background information. My daughter is always cold. All winter long, she comes downstairs in the morning wearing a long sleeve t-shirt with a plunging neckline, and maybe (on a good day) a sweater that’s made out of some material that’s no warmer than tissue paper. And then she complains that she’s cold, and I need to turn on the heat. Yeah… no.

“It’s not cold in here,” I retorted. “It’s quite warm.”

“It’s NOT warm, Mom. You’re ruining our lives!” She let out a little giggle at her dramatic statement. “So… last night I heard a commercial on the radio, and it made me think of you. This lady was opening the windows in her house, and her kids were complaining that it was below zero and they were freezing. And then the announcer said, ‘Is menopause ruining your life?’” She paused here for effect. “Totally you, Mom. You are tearing this family apart! Turn on the heat!”

“If you dressed warmer, you wouldn’t be so cold,” I told her. “It’s always warm enough in our house.”

“Just because you’re warm enough, doesn’t mean we have to keep the heat at 48°,” she stated bluntly.

“We have heat to keep us warm and a roof to keep us dry. You should feel fortunate.”

“Are you seriously playing this card?” she asked, incredulous that I would expect her to feel fortunate when she’s always cold. “Why should we freeze because, you know… Socialism?”

“I’m not saying you should freeze. I’m saying you should recognize that you are lucky. If you want to pay for the heat, I’ll turn it up. In the meantime, I’ll pay for a sweatshirt.”

“I had a dream that I was with Bernie Sanders,” she said as she abruptly changed the subject. She went on to fill me in on the rest of her dream.

“That was kind of a random change of subject,” I informed her when she was done.

“Oh well, you know… Socialism,” she responded.