I had myself a bona fide life-changing adventure over the weekend, my friends. That's right, for the very first time, I was a (wait for it...) passenger in the vehicle...driven by my 16-year old son. Now, I know what you're probably thinking: "Waaiiiit a minute...hasn't Derek been in possession of his Learner's Permit since last July? How in the world have you managed to avoid riding shotgun thus far?" Well, folks, let's just say...I'm Just. That. Good.
No, seriously--a combination of factors has conspired to limit Derek's time behind the wheel, in general. He'll be the first to tell you that between his year-round soccer commitment...and the amount of homework he's had to manage as a high school sophomore...he just doesn't have a whole lot of spare hours to fritter away on the roads. Add to that the fact that the only car he can use right now is Husband's (my Subaru being a manual transmission, which I'd be perfectly willing to teach him...AFTER he has some experience with all of the other...stuff...you need to master to be a safe and skilled operator), and you can see what we're up against.
He needs 60 hours of practice, total, and he has oh, about FIVE thus far, so our new Family Goal is to get him out there chauffeuring us around at every possible opportunity. Here it should be noted that I'm arbitrarily including Riley in this proclamation...even though his immediate reaction to the idea of Derek driving him anywhere was a vehement "Absolutely NOT!" accompanied by a vigorous head shake and a stern expression, lest there be any doubt as to his feelings on the subject. When asked to provide an explanation for his--clearly firm--opinion, he simply stated, "I don't trust him yet. Maybe when he has about...30 hours...then we'll see." (Even when we assured Riley that we weren't tossing Derek out onto the 8-lane highway anytime soon, he remained...skeptical...at best.)
His resistance, however, was about to meet an unceremonious end, as Team WestEnders had been invited to Husband's cousin's house--on the other side of Chapel Hill--for a belated cake-and-ice-cream celebration of Derek's birthday. And after all, what better way to commemorate turning 16...than by ferrying your beloved family to the festivities? Hold on, what am I saying? This means that I, too, would be joining the Trial Crew...was I ready for this? I took a few deep breaths and fortified myself with the thought that, as long as we arrived in one piece, there would (LITERALLY) be a sweet reward waiting for us at the conclusion of our journey. With that comforting notion planted in my mind, I buckled in...and started counting down the minutes it would take to cover the distance between our house and Cousin's. (Kidding! Sort of...)
So, we first headed down our super-steep driveway, and Husband gave the obligatory warning to take the turn onto the street verrrry slowly, lest he drag the Hyundai's low undercarriage. (If I were a gambling girl, I'd wager that he's given some variation of this advice EVERY SINGLE TIME he and Derek have gone gallivanting. Yep, I'd win money, almost 100% guaranteed...) Of course you can guess what comes next: clunk...scraaaape. (Siiiiighhhh...) However, after than somewhat inauspicious beginning, he did fine. Still a little wide on the turns, but he handled the speed, lane changes, stoplights...and whatnot...without incident. No one felt compelled to grab the Panic Handles, and Husband, who was acting as co-pilot for this jaunt, never once slammed his foot into the floorboards to activate the Imaginary Brake on his side of the cabin.
I suppose we can conclude that all those times recently that he's made Derek drive himself (under supervision) to his team workouts--1/2 hour away, on busy roads during what passes for Rush Hour around here--have paid off. He seems to be building two very critical things: confidence...and competence....that will help him as he moves toward...independent navigating. (GULP! Right...not even close yet...relax...) And obviously there are many, many more experiences that he will encounter that will continue to shape his abilities; for example, the other night Husband allowed Derek to bring them back from practice...in the DARK. (Yep, maiden-voyage-after-sunset...whoo hoo!)
Apparently that portion of the evening went perfectly smoothly....yet it was reported that on the way to the site--which was not their regular venue, so the directions weren't entirely familiar to either of them--Derek missed a turn. No big deal, right? It happens to even the most seasoned of drivers. But Derek didn't quite know what to do...so he just...kept going straight. Relaying the story later, Husband chuckled, "He kept blowing past driveways instead of pulling in--it's like he was expecting there to be a neon sign with a specially designated Teenager Turnaround, or something!" According to him, the road eventually dead-ended, forcing Derek to perform the necessary about-face and retrace his route. (Derek's only comment was a mild retort: "You must get lost all the time, since you know what to do so well!" Touche, my son...)
Anyway, this process is clearly an ongoing thing in which we will all be participating for some time to come. I survived my initial stint as the Back Seat Rider. Maybe now I'm ready for the role of Driver's Ed Instructor...using Husband's automobile...IF there are treats at the finish line, that is...