The big news around here isn’t all about high school graduation, believe it or not. The younger boy is having his own sort of commencement this week. Thanks to a permit test passed with flying colors, he is beginning a lifetime of…driving.
Acquiring a driver’s license is very different from how it used to be, back in the day. Basically you read the driving rule book, you *might* have taken a driver’s ed class in school if you were able to fit it into your schedule, you took a permit test, and one day, you just went to the department of motor vehicles on your sixteenth birthday and, as long as you passed the written, vision, and driving tests, they gave you a driver’s license without caring if you had skills beyond what you needed to drive around town for ten minutes and then parallel park. Times have definitely changed.
The younger boy’s driver’s ed “pre-class class” (yes, a pre-class class.) has completed two of three Tuesday-mornings-at-6:00 meetings so far; these are for filling out paperwork, selecting summer session times, and taking the permit and vision tests. When the phone rang here at a little after 7:00 yesterday morning, I looked at the Caller I.D. and noticed it was the younger boy. I picked up immediately.
“Hi Mom! Guess what????”
Already knowing what, of course I said, “What?”
“I passed my permit test with flying colors: I only missed two questions! And I got a perfect score on my vision test*!”
“Congratulations, Buddy! That’s awesome! Thanks for calling to tell me…I’ll see you after school: have a great day!”
“Oh, I will!”
He was so excited. And no wonder: this kid, for years, has begged me to let him hold the steering wheel from his place in the shotgun seat, even for five seconds at a time. He occasionally asks me if he can start up the car as we’re getting our seat belts on. Occasionally, I let him.
And now, he’ll be able to do all that and more. His “post-pre-class class” (now I’m just messing with you) officially begins in two weeks, and once his teacher gets him going on learning the basics of driving, I’ll be the one in the shotgun seat, liberally using my Mom Brake as we circle the gigantic parking lot of a Catholic church not too far from here** as I do my best to avoid the following:
~screeching at him that he hit the wrong pedal, AGAIN
~flinging my hand out to grab something for stability when he inevitably hits the brakes too hard
~having a near heart-attack as an unexpected car, driven by a real licensed driver, appears in our practice space
~strangling him on Day 2 when he asks if he can go out on the real roads yet
You laugh, but remember: I have an older son. I write from experience.
Illinois state laws indicate that permitted drivers must log 50 hours of drive time, 10 of which must be at night***. When you’re doing the first couple of weeks in a church parking lot for 15 minutes at a time and then only gradually moving out into the surrounding subdivision for 15-20 minutes at a time, and then onto the real streets of your town for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then–my heart!–the interstate for longer, those 50 hours seem like 50 years.
It’s okay, though. Not only do I completely back the state on making new drivers actually earn their license by driving for a set amount of hours, but the whole experience of spending nearly 50 hours**** sitting next to my teenaged son will bring on a whole different kind of bonding under stressful situations that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’ll check back in 50 hours to tell you how it went.
**But not on Saturday evenings, Sundays, or Wednesdays.
***Thrilling, actually, because we originally thought that the laws were changing during his permit year and he would need 100 hours. Whew again.
****Jim will do a couple of the fifty, but not many. He designated me as this family’s parent driving teacher, due to my “calm demeanor” and the unlikeliness of a clash-of-the-titans-style argument between me and my young Padawan. Wait, that’s two movie references in the same sentence. Extra points to me for creativity!
©2010 Suburban Scrawl