The Summer of Firsts

I find myself in an unexpected set of circumstances.  I’ve spent the past few weeks teaching one son how to drive and one son how to ride a bike.  I suppose I could have seen this coming had I done the math.  Instead it has taken me by surprise.

Subway Dude has had zero interest in learning to drive.  Under protest, he earned his learner’s permit last August.  He went out exactly one time with The Major.  Whenever we offered to take him driving he declined.

This summer Drivers Ed fit beautifully into our schedule.  Perhaps I should say that Drivers Ed defined our summer schedule.  I planned ahead knowing that next summer SD will be getting ready to head off to college.  I’m fairly certain that by next summer SD will be glad to have his license and will thank me for being such a great and fabulous mother.  (Yeah, right.)

In the words of the immortal Simon & Garfunkel, call him "Baby Driver."

SD is a bright kid who has never shied away from new situations.  He is willing to walk into a room of strangers and hold his own in conversations.  He can pick up new subjects effortlessly.  He is confident when I would not be.

This week I discovered that he is anxious about driving.  He is a cautious driver.  He is not fearless behind the wheel.  In some ways this is a good thing.  He respects the car, driving and all that it entails.

His Drivers Ed coursework states that his daily homework is to drive for 30 minutes a day.  I have taken on this responsibility.  Every morning I have been waking him up and have gotten him out for a drive.  The earlier, the better.  In one week’s time I have seen vast improvements in his confidence.

In case you haven’t experienced this yourself, let me tell you that it is nerve-wracking for a parent to sit in the passenger’s seat with your child behind the wheel. Yes, you generally start in a parking lot, away from other cars and drivers.  That’s scary enough.  At some point along the way you have to make the jump to the roads replete with other cars and drivers.

I have tried to remember what my mother always said.  She told me that a good teacher should be able to teach any subject.  I am working on that one.  I am not a Drivers Ed teacher and yet suddenly I am.

There have been moments where I have noticed SD doing something that I know is not right.  I’ll to stop and analyze how to do it properly.  I’ve been driving for 27 years longer than I care to admit.  A lot of driving has become rote to me.

Contrast this with Island Boy.  He is more of an athlete than most of us at Kay Nou.  We are certainly an active family, but IB is athletic.

The bike makes IB nervous.  I’ve been working with him this week on riding his two-wheeler.  He has gone out three times for about 5-10 minutes.  He’s got it.  He can do it.  He is able to ride the bike.  It is his confidence that is missing.  When I let go and begin running beside him, he panics.  He starts to cry, wobbles the bike and stops or falls.

IB and his nemesis (at left)

One our third time out TM and TF came out to watch the magic happen.  IB was none too happy to have a crowd watching him.  He graciously permitted me to run along beside him, holding the back of his bike.  Eventually, TM suggested we take the bike out into the street, rather than navigating the narrow sidewalk.

We took to the mean streets.  IB was doing it.  He was riding all on his own.  I fell back and let IB ride alongside of TM.  As soon as he realized I was not holding on, he began to freak out.  TM said, “Hey, IB, watch out for the mailbox!”  IB was making a beeline for the receptacle.  His head is at the exact height to ram right into the metal part of the box.  More panicking.  TM was watching, incredulously, as IB continued on his path for the mailbox. IB barely missed it, and then had a major meltdown.

Instead of reacting like a man and rescuing his child, The Major cowered like a little girl.

At this point, there was no way I was going to let him off the hook.  He had to get back on the bike one more time and leave on a high note.  Oh, the drama.  The tears.  It was like a Wagnerian opera with IB playing all of the parts.  I got him calmed down and back on the bike.

I’ll be back out there tomorrow with both boys.  Everyone learns to ride a bike.  Everyone learns to  drive a car.  I’m happy to be the one out there with them, while learning how to let go.

–Running Girl


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Eden on July 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Great blog! Thanks!
    LOVE you all!


    • Posted by Tony Marshall on July 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Dear RG –

      The one event in the driver training experience that might be as almost as bad as those first few times you sit next to that infant who claims to be 16 (have you seen the Subaru commercial where the father is giving a safety lecture to a child behind the wheel who ultimately tuns out to be 18?) actually drive where there are other maniacs who should not have ever been licensed… is waiting while he or she is taking the big test.

      We did this yesterday, and while chatting with other anxious parents as the kids were off being judged, we all agreed we had probably lost more sleep the night before than the kids did. In our case, it didn’t seem to take long before Sonia and the tester came back to the parking lot, sat there for a couple of minutes until he got out of the car and, behind his back, she flashed a big smile and a thumbs up!

      Now the next hurdle… the first time she takes the car – dare I say it? – by herself! OMG, how will we survive? love, Unca Tone


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