My son has his learner’s permit.
He is driving my car.
I don’t know how this happened. I mean, I know how it happened. It’s like taking a pregnancy test and having it comes out positive. You know how it happened, but still, you don’t know how it happened.
I surrender my keys into his eager palm and attempt a state of calm as I relinquish control of both the steering wheel and the brake. It’s momentous. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying.
Your prospective changes a lot when you are the passenger of your teenager. You realize that your mild mannered minivan has been harboring a dark secret. It is not a secure family vehicle; it is a four wheeled death machine. In fact, you have been hoodwinked by all the other folks on the road. They are not fellow citizens of humanity. They are potential drunks, idiots, fools, and ne’er-do-wells.
It is at this point that you realize your child is not a child anymore but a bona fide young adult who navigates in the real world and as such is in need of the full complement of emotional responsibilities and reactions. I’m talking about the F-bomb. Driving is the X axis, the Y axis is permission for cursing, and obtaining a learner’s permit is the point where X and Y intersect.
Golly Gee, Fudge, and Darn don’t cut it when driving a three thousand pound missile that has the potential to do great bodily harm down the road. The proper use of cursing requires nuance, restraint, and situational application. It’s a lot like driving.
Driving is an unmistakable demarcation. No longer can I fool myself that he is my munchkin or that he’s just dabbling in the world of teen deeds. When he is driving he is a certified Grade A teenager. He even has the papers from the state to prove it.
I have to practice with him which means I surrender the keys and he operates the steering wheel and brakes. When I place the keys into his eager palm I try to forget that last week when he packed his own suitcase he forgot pajamas, a toothbrush, and underwear. We both must focus on the task at hand.
Driving is unlike any other childhood milestone. It is gravely serious.