From Permit to License: A Parent's Journey, Part Two

I had told myself I was ready.

In the first few days after your child returns home, triumphantly, in possession of his Learner’s Permit, you begin mentally preparing yourself for the first foray into the unknown.

In our case it was early Sunday morning, on a cul-de-sac located near our local Registry of Motor Vehicles branch, the very street where the RMV holds its road tests. In addition to being a seldom traveled dead end, this street is ideal for practicing most of the items on the License road exam. The road is straight, with a high curb, perfect for backing up. It contains a steady incline for hill starts. And across the street sits a sturdy guard rail, should the driver trainee fail to properly execute a three-point turn. 

My son switches places with me, and takes a seat behind the steering wheel. I am in the shotgun seat, staring at him as he adjusts the mirrors. I thought I was mentally prepared for this, but in this moment I find myself nearly overcome with emotion. This is one of those moments, like a child’s valedictorian speech or first role in a school musical, that marks the passage of time for a parent. I can only think of my first born now as a young man, and myself as someone aging, who will eventually cede the wheel to him permanently.


But for now there is instruction to be given, and I am still the teacher. I remind my son to  always use his turn signals long before engaging the wheel. I’m impressed by his ability to back the car up 30 feet in a straight line. His three-point turns are slow but flawless. I tell him he needs to stop before the white stripe in front of the stop sign, and not after, and he gets it right the second time.


Later, in the empty lot behind the Registry building, I work on the daunting task of teaching him to parallel park. This is the bane of most new drivers, and he finds this very challenging. The first time he cuts the wheel too late, the next time just a mite too soon. I tell my son he’s doing fine and we will continue to work on this. I know he is focused and wants to get his license, and I’m confident that, as we go out each successive weekend, that these turns and wheel cuts will become sharper and more precise. And that, maybe next week, or perhaps the week to follow, he will tell me he’s ready to move on to the next challenge and tackle the back streets of his hometown. And I will tell myself I’m ready. 

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