In Other Word / Steering my grandson in the right direction
Looking back on my then 16-year old grandson Andrew (now 21), I reflect on an important milestone in his life.
It is springtime, and Andrew has just received his driver’s permit. This means that another teenager will soon be gracing our roads. While this is considered worthy of recognition, the rest of us — his parents and I — approach this milestone with trepidation and the realization that life is moving much too quickly.
His sister Caroline, then 15 (now 20), thinks it’s “all so cool.” She has become Andrew’s staunch ally, anticipating the day when she, too, can get behind the wheel of a car and drive us to distraction.
Andrew is a great kid. Caroline equally so. But greatness aside, driving a car evokes such anxiety that driver’s permits should include therapy sessions for parents and grandparents to get them through the ordeal.
Andrew waves his permit at me as a constant reminder of this potentially death-defying feat. Despite the fact that he hasn’t cleaned his room since the Clinton administration, he’s got something more important going on, and congratulations are in order. And so, I pass along kudos with as much enthusiasm as I can muster up. He has, after all, passed the test and has plastic proof of his accomplishment.
But I am frightened. Not only because my grandson will soon be on the road with maniacal drivers and substance abusers, but because the world these kids are facing is even more dangerous and challenging than what they will encounter in the driver’s seat. And we, who have little control over protecting them, suddenly feel overly protective.
If it were up to me, I would shield my grandchildren from the pervasive destruction in a world run amok. I would step in and remove them from irrational predators, insane terrorists and surprise bomb attacks
Intended to kill off not only innocent victims, but our spirits, as well. I would whisk my kids off to places that guarantee their safekeeping. But I can’t. At best, I can only offer my own experiences as blueprints to those of a different generation vastly removed from mine.
In spite of us, children grow up, and for better and for worse, we can only hope that somewhere along the way a nugget of our excessive and relentless rants will have paid off, and steered them in the right direction.
My hope is that by the time Andrew gets his actual license, and is officially deemed legally capable of operating a vehicle, the rules will sink in: He will pause at stop signs for what may seem like an inordinate amount of time for a restless teenager. He will approach yellow lights, not as an invitation to forge ahead at breakneck speed, but to linger for a moment, heeding the antiquated cliché, “Better safe than sorry.”
I am counting on the fact that his newly acquired status will instill responsibility and patience, and that he won’t be in such a hurry to race through life, knowing he will be road-tested beyond his widest imagination.
When my shaky sanity is being tested by the image of my grandson in a car, it is then I need to get a grip on reality, imagining him making wise decisions as he navigates a steering wheel along bumpy roads, seat belt attached, his vision clear, hands steady and his instincts well-intact.
However, the heady excitement of owning a driver’s permit is all that matters. He is a typically normal and engaging — sometimes cocky adolescent, who has the goods to prove his worth. For a while he needs to savor the glory, knowing he has made the grade as a full-fledged member of the Big Boys Club. And I, a minor player in this scenario, have become the target of his amusement as he waves his permit in my face, assuring me he’s got it all under control.
“Look, grandma,” Andrew taunted me back then, as he whipped out the plastic card with his photo ID, more to provoke than to brag, and utters the words, “Need a ride?”
“Not quite yet,” I tell him, recalling the days when he rode his first two-wheeler, and thinking how grown up he was then.
But not to be a spoilsport, or put a damper on his day, I add, “But I am looking forward to having you drive me around town as soon as you get your license.”
“I’ll be your personal chauffeur,” he said. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go in great style. You can count on me.”
And, “count on him” I did, many times over the years.
Now, at 21, a college junior on the road to new adventures, Andrew has added many miles since that day he passed his driver’s test. Now, even greater challenges await him on the road to new adventures. And I, his grandmother, watch with eager anticipation and good faith, that he will meet those challenges with the same enthusiasm he did at 16, when he flashed his driver’s permit at me, thinking that was about as good as it could ever get.