I'm experiencing a strangely quiet afternoon around here--not that I'm complaining, mind you, just commenting on the unusual absence of...after-school mayhem. You see, Riley has opted to stay a couple of extra hours at school for the Spring Fling Dance. (Which, unless my calculations are incorrect, means that he has now officially attended more of these events....in 6th grade alone...than his brother did in 3 years of Middle School. Just as a historical note, you know...) He claims that he's making an appearance, not for the purpose of...boogie-ing...per se...but simply to hang out with his buddies. Mmm-hmmm....and where does the Fairer Sex fit into this equation? He was--not surprisingly--somewhat cagey on this subject when I asked him, but he casually mentioned that he had been considering asking someone, but decided against it. Okay, then...have fun...doing whatever pre-teens find amusing at these shindigs.
And Derek won't be gracing us with his presence until someone picks him up at 7:00...after his Driver's Ed session. Yep, that's right, he's currently enrolled in the course, which meets 3-hours a day, Monday through Thursday for the next 2 weeks, then 2 more days the following week to wrap up the total 30 hours...all from 4-7 p.m...after a full school day. Sounds brutal, right? Even better, for the past 2 nights I've gone to meet him at 7, bringing a supplementary snack and 40-ounce water bottle (this is on top of the full-course meal he brought to eat during instructional time) and all of his soccer gear (cleats, shin guards, rec-specs, ball, practice jersey and socks). We then sit in the car for a half-hour or so, allowing him to knock out some of his homework before I shuttle him to practice (which lasts until 9:00). When he finally arrives home, he eats (yes, AGAIN), chats for a few minutes to fill us in on his busy day, showers, finishes up any remaining school-related tasks, and falls into bed to rest up before doing it all again.
Now let's address the burning question at the forefront of all our minds: why in the name of all things right and rational is a just-barely-15-year-old being taught anything at all about the delicate and dangerous process of operating an automobile? The short answer is: because that's how it's done in North Carolina...y'all. (You're even allowed to join the sign-up list when you reach 14-years, 9 months of age, if you can believe that. Thus Derek claims he's technically "late" getting started...yeah, whatever, dude...) So anyway, wouldn't you expect them to offer all kinds of lessons about stuff like the rules of the road, safe behavior behind the wheel, what all the crazy signs mean...etc.? But on Day 1, Derek reported that they'd spent the entire time talking about (ready for this?) "not drinking and driving". Well, sure, that's critical information...but is this the most appropriate time and place for it? Between the Health Curriculum provided by the school system...and the harping (er..."guidance") he hears all the time from his Parental Units, I think we've got this one covered. However, I'd reaaallly like my kid to know the important parts of the car...and the proper technique for merging into traffic...how to assess and manage various road conditions...and whatnot.
Derek did point out that he will presumably be given these kinds of details during the On-the-Road portion of his education, which occurs after he successfully completes the classroom time. There was something else bothering me, though, which I kept to myself. However, in his next breath Derek hit it right on the head: "My friend said, 'Shouldn't they be more worried about us not drinking...at age 15...than trying to drive while drunk?'" Yep, my thoughts exactly. Which incidentally brings up another issue: I consider Derek to be reasonably mature for his age, generally pretty responsible, and usually capable of exercising sound judgment. Yet the idea of him piloting a several-ton piece of machinery...along a narrow strip of asphalt...surrounded by swarms of other navigators....scares the ever-loving bejeezus out of me.
I mean, part of me totally gets it--I grew up in a rural area, where you couldn't walk anywhere, or ride your bike to places. Heck, there wasn't even public transportation of any kind. So you relied on the Mom and Dad Taxi for years, until you could get your grubby hands on that little piece of laminated freedom and ferry yourself around. I remember so clearly how I yearned for that day, and how exhilarated I felt when it finally arrived. Aaannnnnd still...I'm pretty darn sure that this whole thing is going to make me a Certifiable Nervous Wreck. Clearly, I'm so very, VERY not ready for this step in my child's journey toward adulthood. Fortunately, we have a fairly long period of time to adjust--first, Derek can apply for his Learner's Permit after he passes both the classroom and road tests. From the day he receives the provisional license, he must drive for a whole calendar year with Husband or me as passengers in the vehicle. (I think I heard we have to keep logs of our sessions, or something--we'll cross that bridge when we... drive up to it...)
Oh, and on a related topic: a neighbor whose kid recently completed this process told us (only partially jokingly) that when you call the insurance company to let them know you'll be covering your teenage son, they send out not only an agent...but a grief counselor to help with the sticker shock. Sigh. It seems that Big Changes are afoot...or, um...wheeling our way? So...for now we'll just do our part to talk about good driving habits...and to act like positive role models in the driver's seat...and also perhaps divert some funds (from anywhere but the FOOD budget, of course) to pay the next State Farm premium...and definitely hide Derek's Need for Speed PS3 video game for a while!