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….