Do you remember the first time you sat behind a wheel and learned to drive? I do. My first car was a white, boxy 1984 Volvo. My brother and I shared the car. I was thrilled to have a safe and functional car that represented freedom. He, on the other hand, found it rather unappealing. (He told me recently that he’d often leave it unlocked with the hope someone would steal it.)
When you’re a teenager, you don’t think about one day having your own kids. You don’t imagine yourself in the passenger seat as your first born gingerly navigates his way on the road. And now as the adult, you try to stay quiet while silently praying for safety. It’s like the old video game Frogger, except it is real life!
I videoed the first excursion with Alec after he earned his restricted license. He drove to the grocery store around the corner from our home. He nearly side swiped a car within minutes while exclaiming, “I didn’t see it!” I muttered sarcastically, “Yea buddy. That’s why it’s called a blind spot!” Thankfully we share similar, wry humor and he laughed.
This precarious moment occurred over a year ago. And there have been others since then. But I won’t write any more about our roaring road bloopers to spare him embarrassment.
As the months passed, Alec’s confidence increased and his driving improved. I showed him shortcuts and all the nuanced tips I wish someone had told me. And recently, he booked his appointment at the DMV to get his driver’s license.
Last Thursday we headed to Margate. Alec was understandably nervous as we approached the parking lot. I joked and told him stories of my attempts at parallel parking; I was trying to distract him and calm his quiet jitters.
We approached the desk, and Alec glanced at me with his large, chocolate brown eyes. I looked up at this handsome, sweet soul who is now a few inches taller than me. His face and body have matured into a young adult of whom I am beyond proud. A fleeting flash of the second he teetered and took his first steps appeared in my mind. The same earnest face and “let’s get on with this” energy that he has today.
I put the brakes on my drive down memory lane. A woman with pink, shimmery eyelids and a magnanimous smile asked for Alec’s paperwork. (I knew it was all there because he’d checked it at least 10 times on our way here.). I told her how much I appreciated her positivity. I also complimented her funky, artful nails that my daughter would love.
She took Alec’s permit and animatedly chatted with him about the driving test. I interjected with my attempts at comedic commentary. Alec shot me a subtle “my mom is a goofball” look, which I rightfully earned. We all laughed together, and his tension eased.
I did not anticipate the long wait outside. A South Florida midday summer is sweltering. I foolishly wore black rayon pants and comfy but heavy sneakers. My skin glistened within minutes. I spoke to another mom while Alec chatted with her son. After an hour, I wondered if they’d forgotten about us.
We soon realized there were only two driving instructors! And at least six people who waited for a test. Clearly efficiency was not a priority here. I then thought about how frustrated my husband would be by this snail-paced process.
Five minutes later, my husband texted me that he was hiding behind the building. I nearly went airborne with excitement! Alec’s name was finally called more than 90 minutes after we checked in. I called my husband right away. I was so touched that he had left work, which was nowhere near this DMV location, and showed up.
That is love. That is the difference, as I wrote about last week, between a father and a dad. I didn’t expect him to be there because I knew he had a bustling, packed day. I got into his car and threw my arms around him. A day that was already momentous just became even more memorable.
Together, we stealthily watched Alec back out slowly from a parking space. I could barely contain my joy for him. My entire being buzzed with eager anticipation. The test finished quickly, and Alec summoned me toward him.
As my husband and I walked toward him, Alec’s smile broadened and I exhaled with relief. I wondered why he didn’t look shocked to see his dad. I soon heard the answer.
We each embraced and congratulated our first born. I then exclaimed, “How thoughtful was it that daddy came! Why aren’t you surprised??”
Alec smirked while he said, “Well I saw him. I noticed a big, black truck and immediately thought that must be dad.” I felt deflated but my boys said it didn’t matter. And Alec seemed especially psyched about the pizza awaiting him!
I had been documenting every second of the day. The next person saw my attempt at sneaking photos and reprimanded me immediately. He even asked me to leave the license area. On my way to sit down, I stopped by to thank the woman at the previous desk. I told her what fabulous energy she emanated, and that I wished our day ended as it began. She smiled radiantly, and wished us all good luck on the road. (Seriously, Chica, I am having the same thought!)
My husband hugged us and headed back to work. I snapped a few more photos with my phone. As we approached my car, I tilted my head sideways. I truly thought the sun had distorted what I observed. As we got closer, I said “Alec, what’s up with this parking job? Did the instructor park the car?”
He replied, “No Mom. I did.” I nearly choked on my water. I didn’t want to discourage my new driver. But I couldn’t mask my befuddled expression. “He passed you? That man did actually see this, yes?”
Alec laughed as I watched his mind digest what I said. I now understand why there are multiple drivers on the road who ought not to be! Alec will be a fantastic driver—I have no doubt. We got into the car, and Alec inhaled his food. I beamed as I looked at my rapidly sprouting young man. He is confident and honest. He not only knows right from wrong but he lives his life ethically.
The fear of my first born driving on his own slowly shifted gears. I trust his judgment and inner compass. In the evening, my daughter wanted frozen yogurt. Alec drove alone for the first time that night. It was the same grocery store he visited the day he got his restricted.
Alec will have bumps in the road. We all did, and we all do. I tucked today’s road trip into my soul forever. I am grateful he chose me to be his mom. And I am thankful we are on this journey together.