Teenage driving won’t leave you thriving

This is an actual transcript of a conversation I had with my teenage son the day before he took his written driver’s license exam. Even though he’d been anxiously anticipating this moment for years, he was feeling cocky about his prospects. Luckily, teenagers know everything.

Marla Jo Fisher, speaking to her 18-year-old son, Cheetah Boy, who is lying on the couch playing Grand Theft Auto:

11 a.m. MJF: You’d better start studying for your drivers’ license written test tomorrow.

11:01 a.m. CB: I already know everything to pass the test.

11:02 a.m. MJF: Regardless, you should study. There are a lot of tricky little questions on that test.

11:03 a.m. CB: I’m good.

Later that day …

2 p.m. MJF: I emailed you a link to practice DMV tests. You should turn off that video game and get on your laptop and practice the exam. Your test is early tomorrow.

2:01 p.m. CB: OK, thanks.

2:02 p.m. MJF: No, seriously. You really should.

2:03 p.m. CB: OK, OK. Get off me.

The next morning. 9:30 a.m. Outside the Stanton DMV office. Marla Jo Fisher waits in the car reading a magazine, as her son goes inside to take the test. He’s gone a long time, then finally returns, visibly agitated.

CB: I took the test twice and only missed passing by two questions, the first time, and one question the second time. The questions were stupid. One was about animals by the side of the road. Who cares about animals by the side of the road?

MJF: Well, you should have studied like I told you. I hope it was a learning experience for you.

CB: I only missed it by one question, and it was a stupid one! It had nothing to do with studying.

Cheetah Boy shows off his new driver's license, after finally passing all his tests. His mother lived through the experience. Barely.
Cheetah Boy shows off his new driver’s license, after finally passing all his tests. His mother lived through the experience. Barely.

MJF: You keep thinking of this as if it were winning the lottery. It has nothing to do with chance. It has to do with preparation. I hope you learned a lesson today about being prepared now that you’re an adult. Anything important requires preparation.

CB: Yeah, whatever. Will you bring me back this afternoon to take the test again?

MJF: Naw, probably not.

I did not take him back that afternoon, in fact, I didn’t take him back at all. I made him find a ride to retake the test and he did, ultimately pass it. After doing the unthinkable: Studying.

Moral of the story: When at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to in the first place.

This came to mind the other day, when my friend was telling me she’s preparing to drive her son to take his written test. He’s 20 years old and hasn’t bothered to get a license yet. Life is different for our children these days, I remember lining up on my 16th birthday to get mine, unable to wait even a single extra day.

Of course, I’d already taken a driver training course in school, and even though I hated the teacher, hey, it was free.

Outside of major cities like New York, where many people never learned how to drive, driving was a fairly homogenous affair back then. You took lessons in school and then queued up on your 16th birthday to get your golden ticket to adulthood.

Then, you borrowed your parents’ car, brought it home empty of gas, and wrecked it at least once in the first year.

That’s from Auto Club statistics, by the way, that show most new drivers have a wreck in their first year. I was no exception and I’m grateful to be alive, because my mother nearly killed me when I totaled her elderly-but-still-serviceable Toyota Corona.

I’d had my drivers license about four minutes – or so it seemed – when I borrowed my mom’s car and then promptly hit a dump truck. It did nothing to the dump truck. I hit the truck’s tire, and didn’t even flatten it. My mom’s car was totaled.

The cop who arrived to survey the damage burst out laughing when he saw my crestfallen face. “This your mom’s car?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Are you going to get in a lot of trouble when you get home?”

I nodded again.

“OK,  well, technically I should give you a ticket because you failed to yield right of way, but since you did no damage at all to the other vehicle, and you’re already in trouble, I won’t write you a citation.”

I had the car, which was now artistically twisted into new shapes, towed to our nearby driveway, and waited for the execution. No one was home yet, so I had time to think about how I might die.

Let’s just say, I wasn’t summarily executed, but I didn’t drive again for a long time. And, when I did, it was a car that I bought myself with my own money.

I never told my teenagers this story so, shhhh, don’t tell them. Because I didn’t want to suggest to them it’s possible to wreck your mother’s car and live to tell the tale.

Nowadays, they both have their licenses, so I have something new to worry about every day of my life.

And I feel badly that I never taught them to drive a stick shift. I suppose that’s something of a lost art these days. I gave up my own manual transmission car when my leg got tired of shifting gears in traffic, and so I have nothing on which to teach them.

But if they ever get cast on TV’s “The Amazing Race” they’ll need to learn to drive a stick, or they won’t be able to win the million dollars.

And, in some countries, it costs twice as much to rent an automatic as a stick.

These are the things that keep me up at night, my friends. First World problems, to be sure. That’s why it’s good to visit countries where people barely subsist. It puts things into perspective.

Yeah, you were late for your massage but, hey, you don’t have to live in a hut with no plumbing.

Your kids can’t drive a stick, but, hey, they can drive instead of walking. And they’re not riding bikes hauling 30 pounds of firewood on their backs.

Life is good, most of the time. Even with teenagers.

Read more about Teenage driving won’t leave you thriving This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Parenting: It’s just not for hipsters

Colorful boxes of Gril Scout cookies fill the back of a minivan at the Costa Mesa distribution center.///ADDITIONAL INFO: - Photo by MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - shot: 012316 Cookies.0124 Girl Scouts of Orange County Mega Cookie Delivery with more than 1 million boxes of cookies to be distributed to local Orange County Girl Scout volunteers in Costa Mesa on Saturday.
Colorful boxes of Gril Scout cookies fill the back of a minivan at the Costa Mesa distribution center. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Typically, when people contemplate having children, they focus on the wrong things.

They fret about whether they’ll have enough money, how much time they should take off work, child care and whether they’ll have to get a Diaper Genie.

I don’t know anyone who worried about the real problem: That they will no longer be cool.

In fact, the very definition of parent is “Person who is not cool.”

Sadly, you become so uncool that you don’t even realize that “cool” is not a word anymore, unless you’re talking about air conditioning.

Here’s what happens: Before The Birth, you keep doing maternity yoga and wearing your increasingly tight regular clothes. If you’re the dad, your job is to grow a beard and tell your partner every day that she doesn’t look fat. Then, someone gives you a hipster baby shower, and everyone floats away on martinis and mimosas, after giving you 138 adorable infant outfits with leather jackets that will only fit the baby for nine days.  No one gives you a car seat or a Diaper Genie, because those are not hipster gifts, but luckily, your mom gives you a gift card to Babies R Us.

You drink your Virgin Mary and imagine the post-partum you as a same hip, swinging, fly, sick person with swagger, only now accompanied by a new accessory, similar to those dogs in little purses that people like Paris Hilton are always toting about.

Yes, you have to quit smoking, which isn’t cool, because no one will let you touch the baby with nicotine on your hands.

But, at first, you generally can continue your life as a hipster, bringing along little Tahiti or Gunther in a Ralph Lauren baby tote, complete with matching cover up for breast feeding in public.

In fact, there’s even a baby carrier called the Hipster Plus, that, for only $169.99, enables you to haul your kid in various positions on your body and pretend like he’s the latest fashion accessory. Though being seen toting any device that comes with an optional “drool pad,” ($24) probably is not going to get you invited to a party at Zac Efron’s house.

Yes, you’re exhausted every minute and, yes, you have to take frequent breaks when the baby cries or spits up, but you can still maintain the fiction that your life hasn’t really changed.

But, it has. Your brief interlude of taking the infant everywhere is cruelly interrupted by toddler-hood, when the baby suddenly won’t stay in the Ralph Lauren baby pack, but insists on running around during the restaurant’s happy hour, and spilling people’s martinis onto their laps.

Your living room with its soothing ocean-themed décor is now overtaken by a mountain of plastic stuff in bright primary colors.

Your white linen sofa will never look the same, now that the baby spit up on it after eating strained peas and beets.

You suddenly find yourself making dinner, instead of reservations, because you’re too tired to go out, and it’s too much hassle. And dinner consists, more often than you’d like to admit, of something out of a box, because you’re too weary to hold a knife.

Long, hot showers become a long-ago dream. And you start worshipping your television, which provides you with a small break each day as your precious one consumes more TV time than is recommended, but you don’t care.

I still remember driving through my current neighborhood on a long-ago house hunt, before I had kids. I thought to myself, “I’m just getting kids. I’m not having a lobotomy,” as I looked at the ugly 1950s tract houses and tried to imagine who would ever want to live in one. Fast forward 10 years, and suddenly the good schools and nearby grocery stores seem like they were sent from heaven to help working moms survive.

Perhaps the largest and most visible change in your status is giving up your cool car and acquiring that device that screams, “I’ve just given up hope.” I refer, of course, to the minivan.

Before I had kids, I drove a Nissan 300ZX sports car with a T-top roof. It was old, but beautiful. And fun to drive. I’d take the top off and drive up to the mountains, just for the joy of driving.

So, of course, it had to go. People who refuse to get minivans, like me, often fool themselves by getting big SUVs, thinking that no one will know they’ve lost their cool. But, of course, they do. Especially when the cargo holds are full of Girl Scout cookies, not kayaks and rock-climbing gear.

One of my best friends just bit the bullet, sold her cool-but-now-impractical pickup truck, and bought a light green minivan. She refused to get a luggage rack, though, insisting on a spoiler, instead, on the mistaken theory that this would make it look more cool.

Perhaps the longest-lasting effect of losing your cool is that parents can no longer stay up late at night, because they become too accustomed to rising early to get little Tatiana off to class.

Even after your kid is grown and gone, you’re still stuck waking up early, and no longer feel like dancing in the clubs until the wee hours.

“Where are you?” my teenagers indignantly texted me one night. “It’s late and you’re not home.”

It was midnight. I dared to stay out with my friends until the witching hour, and my teens were simply scandalized because it had never happened before.

Nowadays, I won’t allow myself to put on my pajamas until after 9 p.m., just so I don’t have to admit to myself that I’ve become my mother.

Now that my kids are young adults, I keep waiting to get hip and cool again, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I guess, once you’ve achieved parenthood, it no longer happens. And, somehow, that’s OK.

Powered by WPeMatico