Here we go again.
Third time. A child driving. Leaner’s permit. A mix of pride and fear. And fear and the distant light of freedom. And fear.
The first time was several years ago.
Somewhere in the rush of picking up our oldest from one event to deliver him to another outing with the realization that we would have to pick him up again in about 45 minutes to take him to another get-together, it dawned on my wife that perhaps there is some reason to this rhyme of non-stop teen events.
Maybe there is an unspoken societal contract coupled with a growing teenager’s need to be out of the house that is designed to make a child’s learning to drive a little easier for parents to accept.
As each one reached the age of 15, my wife and I have known the fear and trepidation of so many parents. This person who was once our little man is now some nearly full-grown dude behind the wheel.
In mentioning that one of our sons has his learner’s permit, we’ve experienced the appreciative nods of fellow parents who have been there already with their grown or growing children.
We’ve seen the wide-eyed gasp of panic from parents whose children are a year or two younger than our sons, the parents who have never been there before. The realization that if one of our sons is already driving then their children will be driving, too, a lot sooner than they want to consider.
It does get a little easier with each child. OK, that’s not true. It doesn’t get easier whether it’s the first, second or third son.
And there are the parents with white knuckles and smiles that aren’t really smiles as much as bared, gritted teeth. These are the parents in the same boat as we are with a 15-year-old. They are easy to recognize because they have the same expression I have often found on my face.
There are many reasons for this anxious look of fear on the face of parents: The rising cost of insurance and the rising potential of dents and dings on vehicles; the horrible fears that accompany the thought of a child driving; the realization that with a car, a parent may not always know exactly where the teenage child is ... unless you digitally stalk them via the GPS in their phones.
There are many reasons for that clenched-tooth look, but there is also the knowledge that in teaching them to drive, we are preparing them to leave the nest. We are loosening the parental leash a lot further and we are preparing for them to venture out into the world.
In teaching a child to drive, a parent is figuratively and literally driving a child toward independence.
So, there are many reasons for fear and trepidation, which brings me back to my wife’s realization.
It seems that along with a learner’s permit at the age of 15, a teenager’s activities increase to a point where a parent spends a ridiculous amount of time on the road racing the teen back and forth, and to and fro. Or riding with them as they come and go.
Maybe this is by design.
Maybe a parent is supposed to drive or accompany a 15-year-old to so many events to help teach the teen how to drive under a parent’s supervision, but also to serve as a proper transition.
After all that driving, maybe a parent is supposed to be relieved that at long last a teenage child can drive himself to all of the places he must go. Maybe the events and activities increase so a parent is more than happy to say, You can drive yourself.
Maybe that bit of rest is supposed to take some of the edge off the parents’ worries.
And it does. OK, it does a little but not completely.
Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times.