But I Wanna Learn To Drive A Stick Shift!

When a child reaches the driving milestone in their lives, parents in turn reach a milestone of their own...EXTREME WORRY MODE. I can recall the excitement that I, myself, felt when I received MY first car in high school; a used Vega. I was so proud of that little car. I had been practicing on my driving for a couple of years; learning to drive a little stick shift all over the 10 acres in the country that we owned. Things were a bit different when my own children began driving.

There wasn't really a lot of that letting them practice driving thing, because there was really nowhere to do that. In high school, Driver's Education was sort of mandatory. I say "sort of" because EVERYONE took this class through the school with the coaches teaching the classes and then doing the actual driving with the students. In order for one to acquire a driver's license, they had to have documentation that they had indeed taken these classes. This all took place around the 9th grade; whenever a child turned 15. That sounds pretty young to me. I can't imagine how my mother must have felt...back when I was 15, we were actually given a license and put out on the road to drive! With all of the mandatory classes and age requirements, one would think this would hinder a child from attempting to drive without the proper credentials. NOT SO...well, at least not for my little darlings.

Justin and David were in high school and already driving, while Ryan was still in Jr. high school and Caitlin in elementary school. Robby and a friend of his had started a new fund raiser for the athletic club at our children's high school that year...BINGO. Bingo wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been "Late Night Bingo". It didn't get over until midnight and then after cleaning up and counting money, it was into the wee hours of the next morning when we headed home. The coaches for each sport were supposed to have people there to work the game for them...however, there were many nights that the volunteers did not show up, resulting in a phone call from Robby asking me to get out of my jammies and head back across town to help out.

This particular night was one where I was already scheduled to work. Heading out at 10 p.m. to the bingo parlor was NOT my idea of having a good time. However, I had to remember..."it was for the kids"..."it was for the kids"..."it was for the kids". Ryan was not "officially" driving yet, but I distinctly remember a conversation that I had with him earlier that evening. We had a little standard shift truck sitting in the driveway and he said, "You know...I wanna learn to drive a stick shift." I replied, "Maybe one day soon, we can teach you." And THAT was the extent of the conversation. Thinking nothing more about it, I went about my business, preparing for the late night ahead of me. On these late night bingo extravaganzas, we generally left the older kids in charge of the younger ones...don't ask me WHY we ASSUMED that they were responsible enough to be in charge of ANYTHING, but that was the case; as foolish as it now sounds to my own ears. On the night in question, we indeed did leave all of the kids at home as we headed off to bingo. Arriving home between one and two the next morning, we hurriedly checked on the kids and then got ourselves into bed too.

Saturday mornings after late night bingo found us sleeping late. Then, upon arising, we would start the coffee pot, read the paper and a neighbor (who was our cohort in late night bingo) would mosey on down to visit. That Saturday morning was not unlike any other. I was sipping my coffee and doing some laundry; Robby had gone outside and gotten the paper...the house was still relatively quiet for the time being with none of the kids being awake yet. Our kitchen was painted a cheerful shade of yellow designed with large pane glass windows all around the room so that we could bring a little bit of the outdoors into our home. So, sitting in the kitchen with his cup of coffee in hand and the paper up to his face, Robby was having a pretty peaceful morning. That is UNTIL...he lowered the newspaper, looked out of those lovely pane glass windows and a SCREAM could be heard round the world (OK...maybe not round the WORLD, but round the house and perhaps also the nearby neighbor's houses too). I came running; not knowing what to expect. Looking out the windows, I saw the reason for that distressing scream. At the bottom of the hill...very near the swimming pool...lodged between two pine trees, was Robby's aluminum fishing boat! The trees, thankfully, had stopped the boat from landing directly in the pool.

While we were still standing there with mouths dropped open in astonishment, (I'm not sure why ANYTHING would shock us any more...) Caitlin ran into the room. "Oh, thank goodness, you finally found out! Ryan told me if I said anything, he would kill me!" Robby and I turned to look at her and then at each other, still unable to utter a word. THEN..."RYAN! Come here!" It seems that the only explanation he could offer was that he really did want to learn to drive a stick shift. He had gotten into that little truck that was parked beside the boats and while sitting in it, popped the clutch; THAT set everything else in motion. The truck bumped the ski boat, which hit the fishing boat and in turn sent it sailing down the hill, to where it now sat...lodged between those two pine trees. I could only imagine what Ryan's face must have looked like when all of this occurred.

I cannot say that this was the first (or last) "driving incident" that occurred during the span of my children's adolescent years. However, this WAS the most unusual one. Do I have any advice for soon-to-be worrying parents of teenage drivers? Hang on...you're in for the ride of your life (literally)! But, be sure to pack a good sense of humor to take along for the trip.

1 comment

  1. I remember Justin telling me this exact story when we were in high school. It feels like that was yesterday. The story is still just as funny today!