I think it was my driver's ed teacher -- or maybe it was my mother -- who told me, as I placed the key in the ignition of our 1960-something Chevy Impala for the very first time, that unless I became a police officer, fire fighter or joined the armed services, driving was the most dangerous activity I would likely undertake in my life.
While I have no idea if this is statistically true, these words have echoed loudly in my mind this past week. My 15-year-old son now has his learner's permit.
Getting the permit was deceptively easy. He passed a written test at his driver's ed class and the next day he and I headed to the DMV. While there he filled out some paperwork, decided to become an organ donor, got his picture taken, and took a quick eye test. I then signed a document accepting responsibility for his driving actions (yikes) and the woman behind counter three handed us a temporary copy of the permit (the laminated real deal comes in the mail). It took all of 20 minutes.
Legally, he could have driven me home. Except I don't think he even knows how the headlights work.
I guess you could say the hard part starts now. Sure, he'll take a couple of lessons behind the wheel as part of his driver's ed class. But ultimately, it's my husband and I who will teach him to drive.
And for me, that's like asking me to teach someone how to swim or ride a bike. Both are things I know how to do. But I'm hardly a master of either one of them, and you certainly wouldn't want me as your instructor. As a driver, you would call me competent, at best. I can probably get you from point A to point B safely, but it might not be too pretty -- the multiple dings and scratches on the side of my car pay testament to this fact.
Fortunately though, my husband should be pretty good at this. First, he really enjoys driving -- the more challenging the situation, the better. When we lived in Mexico City some years back, I never once got behind the wheel of our Nissan Tsuru. There didn't seem to be any rules of the road South of the Border, as far I could tell. No one used turn signals, or respected speed limits or road signs. They only used horns. And used them all the time.
But my husband relished the automobile anarchy. He took great pride in becoming a simultaneously excellent offensive and defensive driver. To him, driving has always been a bit of a sport. And one he really enjoys playing.
But perhaps more importantly, my husband is also more patient. His number one rule of the universe is "don't panic." And I am guessing this philosophy will make him far better equipped at keeping his cool during the inevitable parallel parking pitfalls and ill-advised lane changes that come with beginning driving.
So I think for right now I might take the back seat when it comes to my son's driving instruction. Instead, I will concentrate my time on silently praying he actually does become a police officer.
But the kind of officer, mind you, who rides a horse instead of driving the squad car.
Any other moms out there with kids of driving age? Any tips on how you protected both your kid and your sanity while teaching offspring how to drive?comments powered by Disqus
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.