Driving Miss Crazy

Article posted on Friday, November, 9th, 2012 at 11:16 am by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

This week one, of my friend’s announced another exciting family milestone, her son had gotten his driver’s license. The rite of passage just before the college search, it is perhaps a lesson in patience and anxiety that prepares us for the next big launch–higher education. I wrote this after my older son snagged his license and I’m posting it today in honor of Teri, who I know will be much calmer than I was on the journey.

I barely saw it coming. Blindsided on a 16 year road trip, I swear it was only yesterday that I was picking Cheerios and gummy worms off of my car upholstery. I hadn’t even recovered from the trauma of needing bifocals, when I learned that I could add “Driving Instructor” to my resumé.  My son Dan had his learner’s permit. Suddenly there was no buckle big enough to comfort me as I moved over to the passenger seat and prepared myself for another bumpy ride in parenting.

My husband consoled me by pointing out Dan’s video game mastery. Perhaps this obsession had given him the sharpest of reflexes and the patience and concentration of the Dalai Lama. Soon our hesitant driver had confidence and love of the road reserved for career truckers and RV enthusiasts. Obviously, years of license plate games and passing pretzels and juice boxes over my shoulder had created subliminal messages linking the car with food and fun. He couldn’t get enough and I had only myself to blame.

Now Dan can legally operate a motor vehicle without us. Seventeen years ago I was driving around in circles trying to get him to fall asleep. Now he’s driving around on his own and I CAN’T fall asleep. My husband looks for the silver lining.

“Just think, he can help you by running errands—if you give him your car.”

Was this a car pool or a time share and when did I sign up? On a daily basis Dan reminds me of the power of sharing. I’d rejoice if I could shake the fact that it is based upon his need for my car keys and some sorry excuse about craving a caramel latte. Too tired to counter, I hand over the keys. Sharing a car with your teen is like sharing a sleeping bag with a grizzly bear.  When you’re in it together you fear for your safety and when you let him have it alone you doubt you’ll ever get it back in the same condition. Sure enough, the next time I start my car I discover that the radio volume can blast directly to 40, blowing out your eardrums but not your car speakers.

Gently I reprimand the naive driver and force myself to be the model of patience. After all, one day when I am very old I will again assume the passenger seat when he drives me to my doctor’s appointment. (I’m guessing EAR, Nose, and Throat.) By then I will be grateful that the radio volume is on 40. If I don’t fall asleep on the way home, maybe we’ll even stop for a caramel latte.

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