A New Driver in the Family

The first thing I did was take a photo and text it to my husband.  “We have a new driver in the family!” I announced happily and proudly.  Then I sent it to my extended family, and I shared the news with various friends–most of whom have their own children also taking a driver’s test within the next few weeks.  

“Finally,” I thought.  “Finally.  He has his license.”

My mind raced to the possibilities. 

He could drive himself to the weight room, instead of my few free hours be interrupted–yet again–by one more place that one more person had to be chauferred to. He could go kayaking, meet friends for lunch, go fishing.  He could get himself to lacrosse practice–and back home--all without my needing to spend 20-30 minutes driving him to somewhere, returning home for maybe 90 minutes, maybe three hours, before leaving to get him back home.  

He could even go to the later movies and I wouldn’t have to stay up to get him home.

I am the bad mother in this regards.  I confess to happily organizing car pools–all so I don’t have to “lose” time to the endless ferrying of kids from one activity or another.  Five minutes of emails can sometimes pay off in two hours of gained time for each of the parents, if we share the driving.  (The added bonuses of less money spent on gas, less guilt for what our family contributes to global warming and comaderie with the other parents make my heart sing, too.)

This contrasts rather starkly to a good friend of mine, who is in no hurry to have her son get his license. In fact, she has, happily, driven her offspring to school every day.  She picks them up after school, too.  When I bemoaned how I had to “drive all the way from my house to the school” (about twelve minutes), wait for him to come out of the school, only to drive him across town for his activity, she responded. “But I like those times when I’m the bus,” she said.  “The kids often tell me all sorts of things about their day, especially when it is so fresh for them.  I actually feel kind of sorry for their dad, since he often doesn’t get these times with them.”  

Her comments reverberated in my head–as I made the call to the school bus company.  (Turns out that there is, indeed, a bus that went from the school out to the other activity, and that, of course, he could ride that way once a week.)  

On Tuesday, our oldest passed his driver’s test with little stress or fanfare.  “You can tell he’s done lots of driving, Mom; you did a good job preparing him,” the exceedingly kind DMV examiner noted.  

By Wednesday, he had ideas.  “Mom, I’m going to drive to the weight room for practice,” he said.  I nodded, pleased with this plan, mentally ticking back the time I would recoup.  “And then I’ll drive down to Pioneer Valley for lacrosse practice.”

Whoa... 91?  My happy thoughts ground to a sudden, screeching stop.  Mental images of cars crashed alongside the road flew through my head; vivid, gruesome and ever-so-real. The inner movie continued, unwanted and relentless, and oh-so-graphic.  I closed my eyes, said nothing of these scenes to my son, my cautious, responsible, always reasonable, always-to-be-counted-on-to-not-do-dumb-things son.  My 6 foot 2 inch first born. My cherished child.  This irreplaceable and mortal being.  

“Ummm,” I hedged as I walked away, not wanting him to catch on to my fear.  “Maybe we should talk with dad about driving that far the day after you get the license?  You haven’t been on 91 that much yet.”

A few minutes later, he came up with another plan.  “How about if my friend’s mom takes the two of us to practice?  And then I’ll pick up the car and drive home from the high school?”  Stifling a shout for joy and a sob of anexity, I quickly agreed.

By Thursday, he had more plans.  “Today, I want to go downtown for lunch and then go out to a friend’s pool in Guilford.”  I agreed.

When my meeting ran late, and his sister needed to be picked up, I was nearly gleeful when I texted him: “Please sit with your sister until I get there in 15 minutes.”  Such a great thing, this additional driver in the family!  I thanked him profusely as he drove off.

As we started supper, my husband texted him.  “Supper at 7.  Be home then.”  We didn’t hear back, and we didn’t know if there really was service at his friend’s house.  By 6:45, we tried the friend’s house line; no answer.  We found one of the parent’s cell numbers; no answer.  At 6:55, I resorted to Facebook, while my husband disregarded the fact that he might be driving, and that there is limited cell service, and started dialing his cell phone repeatedly.  No answers.

I busied myself.  I mashed potatoes, I chopped strawberries, I cut bread, I drained water off the summer squash.  I banished the rising tide of panic to the back.  I whipped cream.  I pondered how many glasses of milk to pour; would this oldest child be home in time for the meal?  Wouldn’t it be better to have cold milk, and he can pour it later?  Did he even get the message? An image of the phone ringing with awful, evil news of some tragedy tried to pop to the front, and again I stamped it out. I found forks; we brought chicken in from the grill.  

Then my husband’s cell rang, with a garbled message about a road near us.  Four minutes later, the sound of the car coming up the driveway caused the dogs to bark in enthusiastic greeting, just as always.  His siblings announced their brother’s arrival.

Yes, I thought.  He’s home.  

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Another day.  Another milestone.  

Another lesson learned in getting what you wishing for.

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools–this fall, only at the high school and elementary school levels.  She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..