By Marie Mitchell
“Mom, you didn’t come to a complete stop at that stop sign,” Marlowe tells me although it’s a four-way stop and we’re the only car in sight.
“You should have used your turn signal if you were going to change lanes,” he complains (even though we’re the only ones on the road).
“Did you know you were going 50 in a 45 mile per hour zone?” he asks, ignoring the fact that we’re rolling downhill with my foot off the accelerator.
Marlowe’s become a back seat driver even though he’s sitting in the passenger seat, criticizing my every move. He wants to slide over to the driver’s side and log some hours behind the wheel.
Legally, he can do that now. He celebrated his 16th birthday Jan. 4 by passing his driver’s permit test on the first try. He studied harder for that test than any school exam he’s ever taken.
Like any new convert to a cause, Marlowe has become a know-it-all. He’s full of newfound facts, and is happy to share them every time he rides along with me. Ad nauseam.
It’s a wonder I haven’t had my license revoked – repeatedly – for all the violations I apparently commit on the roadways. Who knew I was such a menace? I didn’t until Marlowe became the undisputed authority of all things motor vehicle related.
I’ll admit I exceed the speed limit occasionally. And I certainly can’t park between any lines, even if the space is as wide as the Grand Canyon. But I don’t think I need to go back to driving school which has been suggested lately.
To his credit, Marlowe practices what he preaches. During the hours he’s driven so far, he’s been very conscientious in obeying all those laws he memorized. Or so I’ve been told. I’m not his driving buddy. Mason is. That’s what fathers are for.
Riding with inexperienced drivers makes me nervous. And they can sense my fear. Which makes them nervous. Two twitchy people in a highly charged emotional situation involving a two-ton piece of machinery – big mistake.
“Look for oncoming traffic before pulling out,” I advised on a rare occasion when Marlowe grabbed the car keys before I could, banning me to the passenger seat.
“Be careful. This is a child crossing zone and a kid could dart out in front of you,” I add.
I feel like the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, whose famous cry was “Danger! Danger! Danger!” I envision an accident about to happen around every corner, turn and stop light.
“I’ve got this,” Marlowe assures me.
But I’m losing it, I think, futilely searching for a second brake pedal by my feet.
I don’t think it would help if we had one – or even a second steering wheel. We’d be lurching and weaving down the road as I stomped or grabbed for one or the other. That would create a worse traffic hazard than anything Marlowe could cause. And most likely result in a ticket and hefty fine. For me.
I’m having flashbacks to Mitchell’s early driving days. I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from that. I had twice the anxiety then because we were also teaching Hendrik, our German exchange student, to drive at the same time. That’s a lot of hours trapped in the car.
So for variety, we tried some back roads. Too late we realized they had twists, turns, curves and drop-offs. Big problem for a driver still learning to keep the car on his side of the road. And not careening off an edge with no guardrail, just a steep plunge down a rocky slope. Which we narrowly missed experiencing.
Maybe I’ll be the “in town” driving parent with Marlowe. And the “good weather” supervisor, staying home if there is a chance of rain, snow, ice or even dark of night.
I realize he needs the experience of driving under those conditions, but I’m not the one to give him that opportunity – and stay sane at the same time. He may have to wait until he can take Driver’s Ed to try that. Let a paid professional handle it.
Eventually I’ll be thrilled that Marlowe can drive. Especially when he gets his license and I don’t have to ride along with him.
Then he can help run mindless errands that consume so much of my time and energy. Dropping kids off. Picking them up. Running to the store.
If I can just survive the six months and 60 hours of driving to get there.