Driving me crazy
Glenwood Springs, Co Colorado
Teddy had the last ski race of the season ahead, and he’d been asked to a Quinceanera on the night before.
Grateful that he was included in this traditional celebration, filled with music and ceremony, of a Latina’s 15th birthday, I told him we’d make it happen. So I took him to the “quince” at dinnertime, and then picked him up at midnight.
At home again I lay wakeful, anticipating the alarm at 4 a.m., when I shook his shoulder, prodded him into the car, and drove to Loveland.
At 6:30 or so we arrived in the dawning parking lot, and I said, “Hey, we’re here,” to wake him.
He sat up, rubbed his eyes, grimacing, and burst out: “This sucks!”
And I thought, Yes. It does.
That was last spring. Last week, Friday night, he needed to be picked up at his high school “when I call you” – near midnight – after the football team returned from a game in Hotchkiss. The next morning he had to be at a bike race in Sol Vista, leaving our house at 6 a.m. He dozed as from behind the wheel I blearily chatted with our carpooling friends.
Yes, my husband drives. He usually has the early shift: Last summer it was he who generally transported Teddy to his 7 a.m. job as a ranch hand, 35 minutes away. Mike was certainly the one who drove him to school by 6:40 a.m. the first week of classes, during the “two-a-days” rite of football practice. But the Sol Vista event was happening during opening weekend for bow season. Mike was unavailable. Period.
We reached Sol Vista, stayed on couches in a condo well-packed with three families, and he and his brother raced their events. Sunday’s awards ceremony, the finale for the Mountain States Cup, was even longer than usual. At it, Teddy repeated an earlier suggestion that we return home afterwards so that he could hunt with Dad in the morning, on Labor Day.
He pleaded, “It’s one of my only opportunities to hunt.”
Usually I am accommodating. But with awards lasting until 6 p.m., we would arrive home at 9 or 10, after which he would need to collect his gear for a 4 a.m. departure. (Not to mention he’d have football practice at 4 p.m.) His brother wanted to bike here again in the morning, I wouldn’t mind swimming in the pool – and we’d paid for the condo. Eureka! I have my limits. I found a backbone. I said no.
His scowl disappeared in an hour or two as biking friends came by, filling the condo, and eight boys ran down to the swimming pool, which soon boomed with continuous yelling.
In daily life, we parents drive both boys to their schools. To their jobs (Roy, mows lawns), football practices, their friends’ houses. When we moved out of town many years ago with a 2-year-old and another one in utero, I never anticipated how enviously I would someday regard the families of the small athletes who arrive at various practices on foot or bikes.
Last spring, on the drive back from Loveland (after he once more woke up), Teddy thanked me for the ride, and then told me about the quince: The band, the girl’s formal presentation. He even mentioned her dress, with a hoopskirt “as big around as this truck.” Cars are the best place to talk to boys: You are going somewhere, which soothes their restlessness, and with inherently minimal eye contact.
Today as I write Teddy turns 16, driving age. I’ve always dreaded the day that either of my sons begin to drive. Don’t we all? We know the statistics.
I never peeped when he let time slide by before seeking his learner’s permit; both of us essentially procrastinating.
But kids want to go a lot of places, and their energy is shocking. In some ways, when the inevitable happens, I may be giving a few thanks myself.
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com.
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