This is it, the final frontier of parenthood…letting my kid drive my car.
OK… so she’s almost 18-years-old and she’s still pretty grumpy that I wouldn’t let her drive at the scary old age of 15 ½. But I had my reasons (and they were darn good ones) for not letting her drive. I knew one thing – that if I couldn’t see the maturity level brewing in her (like it is now), then I needed to keep those keys clenched in my hand until God himself made me let go of them.
Having been the second shift cops reporter at the Kenosha News, I’ve been privy to one too many car crashes that ended rather poorly for teens. Her making a left turn scares me. Her driving at night scares me. Her talking on her cell phone while driving scares me. Her being without me telling her what to be careful of terrifies me.
I have to say that while enduring her plea for the keys, I had flashbacks from my youth that also prevented me from handing them over. My dad wouldn’t let me drive his coveted pick up truck (a shiny silver 1987 Chevy) until I had successfully parallel parked the 1942 Case tractor we had (the one with the crank and electric start) in our field.
He also purchased a huge chunk of a truck we called the blue bomb, which he made me drive for a year. It was a 1979 F-150 that had a hole in the floorboard, a five-speed manual transmission on the floor, an AM radio and a white cap that almost fit. We hauled 45-pound feeder pigs in the back of the truck to an Amish farmer’s market in Kidron, Ohio. And yes, for an entire summer my job was to take the little piggies to market. Admittedly, I was not one of the popular kids when it came to cruising down Market Avenue in Wooster, Ohio.
Anyway, the blue bomb was a disgusting beast that was not kind to a novice driver. Once, I took my little sister to her cello lesson and put the emergency brake on. While letting the blue bomb slide back out of the steep driveway and onto the street in neutral, I went to pull out the emergency brake that I had realized that I left on only to find that it was stuck. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I had my little sister go in the house and call my dad. The police showed up and shut down the road while my dad’s mechanic made a ‘house call’ to repair the emergency brake… in the middle of the street. My embarrassment lasted for an hour.
I also had visions of how I used to pine for those few hours of perceived freedom in my dad’s Chevy. After well over a year of tractoring and toting around various animals in the blue bomb, I finally got him to let me take a weeklong trip with my aunt to Canada in the Chevy. We were headed up to some moose-ridden place that was north of North Bay to go camping and we had only been on the road for an hour when I got in my first car crash.
The brown blur I couldn’t avoid hitting ended up being a doe, which must not have realized that six cars were coming straight at her at a rate of 55mph on I-90. She went leaping and flying through the air. Her body hit the corner of the Chevy. The back legs smashed the windshield. The front legs dented in the door and her head smashed into the driver’s side window. The whole scene was rather gory really. Luckily, we had our seatbelts on. Luckily, I didn’t panic. Luckily, I kept driving the truck straight and avoided hitting the cars in front of me. I was screaming, my aunt was screaming... glass was everywhere.
But I was OK.
After talking to my dad, my aunt said we could either go home, or we could get the car fixed and keep going.
“Let’s keep going,” I said. “I really want to postpone seeing my dad’s face when he sees what happened to that truck.”
Off we went and the rest of the trip I was fine, but I was nicknamed the “Bambi killer.”
So when I think about my kid driving, I think of all of these stories. And I realize, my parents let me go and I turned out OK, people live through this stuff. You can’t just keep ‘em in a crib with bumper pads I suppose.
Which reminds me… I think the kid needs to spend a little more time with her grandpa and a certain tractor.