I remember waiting for my 16th birthday with a mixture of fear and anticipation. I knew my life was going to change drastically. Freedom and independence were calling my name and it all hinged on whether I could pass that formidable test…the driver’s test. I hopped into my parents’ big blue suburban and off I went; palms sweaty, knees knocking, heart pounding. I needed to prove my skill behind the wheel to the stoic stranger sitting next to me who, other than the odd scribble on his paper and a few commands about where to turn, sat in complete silence, leaving me to speculate as to my fate. When interviewing applicants for road test examiners, nerves of steel, lack of facial expression and zero need to fill silence with words must be a prerequisite.
The test was done, I had parallel parked the suburban with ease and the verdict was in. I had passed!!! And with surprisingly little ado, I was handed a life changing piece of paper confirming my right to operate a motor vehicle and off I went. Now as a 16 year old, what could be better?! I was foot loose and fancy free. But 20 something years later, my view on the subject has altered a little.
No Big Deal?
16 wasn’t the big milestone I thought it was going to be for Caleb. Compared to when I was young, 16 was a bit anticlimactic actually. Sure there was excitement but ‘foot loose and fancy free’ he was not. An L simply entitles the mom and dad to a long painful year of white knuckling the door handle, jamming feet to the floor boards looking for the nonexistent brake pedal and countless murmured prayers of “Oh dear Lord” all the way home. But perhaps I exaggerate a little. Caleb was a good driver and other than a lot of warnings to keep an eye on the speedometer, the year passed uneventfully.
17 is the new 16. Seventeen is when life changes drastically. That long awaited freedom and independence is oh so much sweeter because of that extra year of waiting. I was transported back in time as once again I watched an unemotional DMV examiner nod his head in the affirmative as he handed over a little piece of paper that was going to alter my life dramatically. Caleb had finally achieved ‘foot loose and fancy free.’
And indeed, life had changed…significantly. Initially there was some worry, fear and anxiety. These I had anticipated. My vivid imagination was a surprise to me though, when the first time he was 5 minutes late I had already imagined the police at my door and planned the funeral. But those feelings subsided as I got used to our new reality. There were some unexpected perks. The first time we ran out of shampoo, Caleb had the keys in hand and was out the door before I could even write it on my grocery list. His brothers had free rides wherever they needed to go and I gladly relinquished my role as taxi driver. But sadly, his enthusiasm subsided as he too got used to our new reality.
Flavour of Freedom
But that little paper enabling him to operate a motor vehicle changed a lot more than I imagined. My easy going teenager had now tasted freedom and he obviously liked the flavour. Our dinner conversations went from “How was your day?” to negotiation tactics so artfully presented that we wondered if he should switch his major from education to politics. “All my friends are going out to Timmy’s tonight.” “Everyone is going to so and so’s house.” “I know it’s a school night but could I just have an extra hour? No one else has a curfew.” Steve and I pride ourselves on being decently intelligent but somehow amid the chaos of four other boys, we found ourselves out talked and out maneuvered each night as we watched him walk out the door yet again.
But the hardest change of all has been how much I miss my son. Living outside of town means a lot of driving for me but the silver lining has always been that I have distraction free time to chat with my boys. I miss discussing the big stuff and just yakking about the day to day stuff. I feel less connected with what’s going on in his world. A natural change that comes sooner or later, but I have been feeling it keenly.
Sneaky Little Ghost Car
That is, until early March. Caleb drives my younger boys around and has proven to be a capable driver. But with mom no longer sitting in the passenger seat, there is no voice telling him to watch the speedometer. And sure enough, while driving down a country road one morning, Caleb had his first run in the long arm of the law. That sneaky little ghost car parked at a neighbouring farm flashed his lights and Caleb felt the sweat bead on his forehead as he pulled to the side of the road. And the law was out to prove a point that morning. He was dinged with two tickets in one shot. Going 70 km in a 60 km zone and not coming to a complete stop at the stop sign. An expensive mistake, especially for an N driver who, after paying the tickets, has to watch his insurance rates sky rocket and add an extra year to his N.
No excuses, speeding and rolling stop signs are a bad idea but if this police officer was out to slow Caleb down, he certainly did. In fact, he put him at a complete standstill. Because a couple weeks later, we got a polite little letter from Victoria informing us that Caleb had 21 days to turn in his license.
And once again, just like that, a little piece of paper significantly change my life.
Who’s grumbling now?
So here we are, we’ve stepped back in time. No more foot loose and fancy free. Back to dinner conversations that cover highlights of the day instead of plans for the night. Back to logging in countless hours behind the wheel as Krista’s taxi services are in high demand. Back to picking up my own hygiene products at the corner store. Back to spending more time with my son. It’s like a little do-over. And though I grumble from time to time about the inconvenience, I’m enjoying the extra time with Caleb as much as I can because this time I’m aware of what’s ahead.
In a couple of months, we’ll go back to our new normal and this time I’ll be ready for it.