That surreal moment when your 16-year-old is driving
When my first son was born 16 years ago, he really changed my life. As all children do to their parents. As was said on NBC's 'This Is Us,' children show us who we are.
The first big scare came at only days old when one of those mandatory hospital tests came back suspicious for hypothyroidism. That’s something if left untreated could cause devastating problems. But like most things in life, it turned out to not be so and was nothing to worry about
Then there were those sleep issues. Of my four kids, he’s the one who could wake up at the slightest sound. I swear if a piece of lint fell on a carpeted floor he could somehow hear it. Endless tricks of running a vacuum cleaner for white noise, then buying a sound machine, driving him frequently to get him to fall asleep and then trying to transfer him to his crib to no avail.
Speaking of driving him, I still remember having his first child seat checked out by a local police officer with a program that they were doing in Michigan. Turns out I had installed everything right. I was just making sure.
As he grew up he developed a phrase when he was very little and learned to talk. I did a lot of taking care of him and when he was 6 I became a single dad with primary custody so I did all the taking care of him. His phrase was, "That’s what daddies are for." It’s something I think I said to him at some point kind of offhandedly and he latched onto. Whenever he was upset and needed help with something he would come up with that; "That’s what daddies are for."
One time in kindergarten on a class picnic that I volunteered for, the poor kid tripped on an exposed tree root when he was running and he bit it pretty hard. Immediate black and blue and a swollen lower leg. He could not put any weight on it and I was worried it could have been broken so I took him to the emergency room. As I was carrying him from the picnic to the car he was trying to not cry and he repeated that phrase then, "That’s what daddies are for."
So here we are all these years later and he’s 16 and has his learner's permit. I took him out for the first time this weekend to practice drive. Such a long way kids come from that first child safety seat in the backseat to taking command of the vehicle in the front. And such a surreal feeling for us parents that first time.
You’ve watched out for them their whole lives to degrees they will only know if they have a child of their own. Like when he knocked his head so hard at three I laid on the floor next to his bed all night just to make sure that he was OK. Man, the things we do.
So there I was this weekend, in the passenger seat of my own car. Him adjusting the mirrors, sliding the seat forward but only by 2 inches. And, to state the obvious, this is no driver’s ed car with the dual controls. All the parent-passenger can do is just calmly dispense some advice and not show whatever nervousness they’re feeling. Is he going to hit that curb and jump it? Does he see this red light? I’m actually proud of how chill I was outwardly. We had a good time and a good session.
All the years of driving him in child seats and then booster seats (which he was in when he lost his first tooth, by the way), and then that moment they’re allowed to move to the front passenger seat, what a big deal that was that day.
Driving him to Little League and swim lessons and friends' houses and birthday parties. And then comes the strange day where you relinquish that control. And he literally takes the wheel.
But isn’t this why we raise our kids? Isn’t it true that we raise them so that they no longer need us? And when they no longer need us, haven’t we done our job well?
So there I was, relinquishing all control to my 16-year-old son. Because after all, when you think about it, that’s also what dads are for.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.