Friday, April 17, 2009

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls...

In celebration of Ev's six month anniversary of getting his license, I present this post again....

Evan got his driving permit recently and so I took him out yesterday to drive the streets around our home. Oh boy. This rite of passage is tough on a parent, but I am doing much better than I did a few years ago when Sonny Boy took me down the same path.

There was one evening I remember in particular. HOB was out of town and I was teaching late. Sonny Boy, 16 and Evan, 11, had been on their own for the evening. I came home, exhausted and I immediately changed into sweats and slippers and plopped on the couch, planning on going to bed within the hour. However, the boys informed me they were hungry and wanted to go to Taco Bell. "No way!" I said. "I'm exhausted."

They wheedled.
I said no.
They pled.
I said no.
They whined.
I said no.
They applied guilt.
They had been all alone, in the house, with no food, no parents.

Working Mother caved.

If a couple of tacos and an order of nachos would relieve the feeling of criminality of being a Career Woman/Working Mother, even temporarily, so be it.

Sonny Boy jumped up and offered to drive. He had his permit and was ready to use it, but needed a parent with him. "OK," I said, "but don't get into an accident because I've taken off my bra and shoes and I'm not putting them back on."

We got into the car, SB in the driver's seat, Evan in the back and me in the passenger's side. Of course, I had ridden with Sonny Boy before, but never at night and never with Evan along. I discovered the seat I was sitting in was positioned as far back from the dash as possible--the position SB nearly always put it in to accommodate his long legs. Try as I might, I couldn't get the seat to slide forward. I felt small and disconnected from the front of the car. I found myself hanging on to the handle above the window as we drove, a position I have always associated with nervous grandmothers.

Now, any parent can tell you, it's just plain startling to find yourself on the passenger's side after years in the driver's seat. But the situation became surreal when we pulled into the drive-thru lane of Taco Bell and Sonny Boy turned to ask me what I wanted. I was shocked by this reversal of roles. I hesitated and fumbled with my order. I could tell he was getting exasperated with me. "Come on, Mom. Don't you know what you want?" he said in a tone that was more than vaguely familiar to me. Could that be my impatient tone coming out of the boy's mouth now? He turned to Evan, demanded his order and then turned to the speaker box to place the order.

At that moment, some strange, primitive hunter/gatherer instinct arose in me and overwhelmed my senses. An alarm as old as our species went off. Not only was I not driving, but now I was displaced as the provider of nutrients. I should be the one speaking into the metal box, procuring food for my offspring. Instead, I was the one waiting to be fed, my thin white knuckles still wrapped around the handle above the window. Not only that, but like a aging convalescent, I had slippers on, my legs seemed to dangle in front of me, I couldn't reach the dash, and was it my imagination, but were my unsupported breasts sagging even more now, nearly touching my knees? Could it be that this brightly-lit alley, decorated with giant pictures of tacos and burritos under the purple and yellow lights was some sort of time tunnel? I strained to see my reflection in the side mirror. The lights above cast weird, ghastly shadows around my eyes. I looked up and over. Had the sign above the drive-thru window actually changed to "Taco Hell"?

Sonny Boy drove to the window, and turned to me for the money. Ah, at least there was some normality in this act. I dug through my purse (another old lady act) and finally found enough. SB handed the bag of food to me and Evan wanted to start eating his in the car. "No," said Sonny Boy authoritatively, as he turned the wheel. "We'll eat it at home."

I thought about this episode as I drove with Evan yesterday. I know there will be times like this ahead, when he naturally assumes the mantel of authoritativeness while I sit, watching in amazement and bewilderment.

But for right now I ride with my youngest son at the wheel as he drives slowly around the familiar, uncomplicated streets of our neighborhood--no heavy traffic, no major intersections. The decisions and moves he needs to make are relatively easy ones. I sit on the passenger's side, offering encouragement and advice. Fully dressed, seat pulled up parallel with his, I am ready (well, almost ready) for what the future holds.


Susan said...

This needs to be published! You need to send this around -- people NEED to read it! I am going to remind all of my friends about this blog! I love it!

Brian said...

You know what's really a weird feeling? When one of them totals his car on the freeway! The nice thing was, he called to tell me himself.

Bossy Betty said...


You are so sweet! Thanks for reading and supporting Bossy Betty!

She adores you!


Bossy Betty said...


Oh no. I can't EVEN go there! Yikes!


Happy Homemaker said...

Yikes! In the first picture I see that Evan is behind the wheel of HOB's beloved beemer. Now that's confidence!!!

Anonymous said...

i'll take him driving!! teach the boy to parallel park, um hmm. just tell me when. he can even drive my car :)