Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Cat's Not in the Cradle, He's Driving a Car!

Okay, this young man, who just very recently (I think) I was contorting my body into unnatural positions so as to put him in his infant carseat (particularly painful during my period of broken ribs) was now strapping himself behind the steering wheel of a one ton killing machine, while I was buckling myself into the passeneger’s seat. Me! The best driver in the world! At least he has the benefit of having the best driver in the world as his teacher.

Over time, I have seen him transition from one mode of transportation to another. First, the infant carseat, which was facing backwards for some reason, then the toddler carseat, still firmly strapped in, but facing forward now. Then walking on two feet. A tricycle. A bicycle with training wheels, then sans the training wheels. A school bus. And then my wife and I mysteriously transmogrified into chauffeurs. Jazz Band, Debate, Marching Band, etc. And now, from time to time, his friends are acting as the chauffeurs, taking him to drug and alcohol fueled orgies, I’m sure. (Those Debate Team people are wilder than you think. Or I think).

He’s going to turn 16 in about 3 weeks, when one would normally get their driver’s licenses, but due to the vagaries of Illinois law, one must now have their permit for NINE months before taking the driver’s license test. Most of his friends got their licenses when they were 16, but due to a combination of his busy extracurricular activities, school schedule and missed deadlines for signing him up for classes/lessons on the part of his parents (perhaps an unconscious desire on the part of his parents to keep him in a state of suspended animation), he only started driving lessons on Monday, and got his permit on Tuesday.

I remember the days when driver’s ed. was just part of the required curriculum, taught by gym teachers. I’m guessing it was gym teachers, the reasoning being that you can’t be around smelly gym socks all day without going insane or risking permanent brain damage, though I think the damage had already been done to some of them. They’d teach you some things you already knew, put you in a ‘simulator’ for a few hours (I’m pretty sure NASA stole this idea for their astronauts-in-training), let you drive around the parking lot for a few hours until it could be reasonably determined you weren’t going to kill them when they actually let you drive around the surrounding comatose residential areas for a while. Then, for the last class, they showed you a gory movie about the hazards of unsafe or drunk driving (drugs had yet to be invented) to scare the crap out of you and sent you on your merry way to get your permit. Then your terrified parents would drive with you for about 15 minutes, and you’d be driven to the Deerfield DMV (in Illinois, it’s actually called the Secretary of State’s office. Secretary of State? Maybe they also formulate diplomatic relations between hostile nearby states such as Wisconsin and Indiana). You ALWAYS went to the Deerfield office, since they were notoriously easy on potential license-getters. I have proof. My sister and father both blew stop signs during their tests, and STILL got their licenses.

Anyway, my son pulled away from the curb, and did just fine. But I had a strange feeling. Now the roles are reversed. He’s looking forward, and I……I am the one looking backwards.

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