2017-07-21 / Family

Driver’s ed is right around the corner

Family Man
Michael Picarella

We were on one of those family walks—the kind we used to take all the time when our kid was younger and had more time for us—when a shiny new driver’s ed car came slowly around the corner, passed by and then disappeared into the distance forever to pick up dings and damage on roads to come.

Our son, who’ll be 14 years old this month, has just a year and a half before he learns to drive. How can that be? My wife and I were only recently at Lamaze class learning how to breathe.

“I can’t breathe,” I told my wife.

She thought I was having a panic attack. And maybe I was. The thought of our son driving was not comforting. Before my wife could tell me to breathe like in Lamaze, she began having her own panic attack.

“Who’s gonna teach him how to drive?” she asked. “I can’t teach him how to drive. Are you gonna teach him how to drive?”

“Of course I’m gonna teach him,” I said. “I want him to learn to drive stick.”

“Drive stick? No one drives stick anymore. What does he need to know how to drive stick for?”

“Tons of people still drive stick. If he’s stranded somewhere and has to make a daring escape, and the only vehicle he can escape in has a manual transmission, he’ll be prepared. I want him to be prepared.”

Prepared or not, our real worry is the fact that our son is becoming self-sufficient. In other words, he isn’t going to need us anymore real soon.

While other parents complain about being Uber drivers for their kids, my wife and I relish the position. At least, as our son’s personal chauffeurs, we’re needed.

“You’re going to the park to meet your friends? Let us give you a ride. I know it’s right down the street, but it’s hot outside. Hop in the car.”

We’re driving the kid all over town—to friends’ houses, the mall, the movie theater, Magic Mountain. . . . If we could drive him from the living room to the garage, we would, just so we could be needed.

Of course, we could say he’s not allowed to go places and keep him with us forever and ever, but the truth of the matter is, our son is such a hard worker in school and at home that we want him to go out and be social, so we encourage it.

Last week, my wife had to bring her car to the shop to get some work done. I had to work. My wife worried that she wouldn’t have a vehicle if our son needed a ride.

“Can you just take the bus to work?” she suggested to me. “That way I can use your car.”

“I’m not taking the bus,” I said. “We’ll buy another car. He’ll be needing one in a couple years anyway.”

I didn’t take the bus and we didn’t buy a new car. But the kid was stranded at home and needed a ride somewhere—and he found someone else to take him. I’d wanted him to be prepared, and he certainly was in this case.

He’s gone all the time, and my wife and I are becoming empty nesters. We never expected to be empty nesters at this age.

Finally, we can go on dates again! And that’s just what we’re doing. We’ll drop the kid off wherever he’s going, have lunch or dinner, see a movie or an exhibit, and then pick the kid up and head home. Sometimes we’ll have more than one date in a day.

It’s been great, but it’s been horrible, too. We miss our son more and more the more he does without us.

Obviously we want him to grow up, but we’re not ready for his childhood to end. We’re not ready for high school and college and adulthood. We’re not ready for him to disappear into the distance forever to pick up dings and damage on roads to come.

“Mom, Dad, I need a ride. Can you drop me off?”

OK, maybe I’m ready for driver’s ed to start. I can’t speak for my wife, but I know I’m getting sick of carting this kid around all day. Off to some trampoline fun center I go.

Email Michael Picarella at michael.picarella@gmail.com. To read more of his stories, pick up his book, “Everything Ever After,” at www.MichaelPicarella.com.

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