I am waiting for Atticus to finish up from stage crew, my van idling in a line of other vans with moms waiting for their kids. A lanky teen slouches out from Door O and heads toward the passenger side of the van in front of me. Then there is a brief, non-verbal exchange as the mom slides over. The kid, looking annoyed, reluctantly gets in the driver's side and off they go.
If you are the mother of a 15 or 16 year old, you probably are very familiar with this scene because for some reason, we have just raised a generation of kids who do not want to drive. Yes, you may have the exception, but most of the moms I know report the same thing: whereas we ALL ran to the DMV and got our licenses on our 16th birthdays, this crowd is being pushed, prodded, and pulled there well after their birthdays.
What gives? Why don't the kids want their licenses like we did? Well, there are many theories: one we make it damn hard to get the license. In Illinois (as in many states I'm sure) the kids have to drive with the parents 50 hours before taking their exam. FIFTY HOURS! Do you know how hard it is to get that time in? Well, after having his permit for the past 6 months Atticus has barely made a dent in the 50 hours. At the current rate, he will have his time in when he turns 22.
How many hours do you think we all drove with our parents before getting our license? I have no idea. Maybe ten? I don't think there was a requirement. My mother tells about getting her license (a long time ago). Her dad took her down to the sheriff's. The sheriff said, "Well, can she drive," to which my grandpa said, "Goddamn right she can." The sheriff handed her a license and that was it. Of course, it was so long ago there were only a handful of cars on the road and a lot of horses and buggies (heh heh, just kidding mom)
But times have changed. There's a lot more traffic just about everywhere. I know learning to drive around here is quite different from learning to drive around the sleepy small town I grew up in (which is also no longer sleepy). Pretty much every major road is a four lane nearly highway with all the current perils of geezers turning left when they shouldn't and distracted moms on cell phones not paying attention.
But here's my theory of why they aren't anxious to learn to drive: they don't need to. We chauffeur them everywhere and I blame this on the damn cell phones (and our overindulgent parenting, guilty as charged). That's right. When we were kids if we needed a ride somewhere we actually had to arrange for the ride ahead of time. Imagine the inconvenience of it all! If we needed to get picked up from band practice we had to tell our parents what time and then, we had to actually be there! And band directors, knowing this, somehow managed to finish on time. None of this end when you're good and ready. Yes, sonny, in my day we didn't have a little thing called a cell phone. We didn't just text our mommies and they dropped everything and ran to get us! No! We planned ahead, and then we waited until our moms were good and ready to get us. And sometimes they were late. And sometimes they forgot. And we were unable to call or text them. And we waited. And waited and waited.
And sometimes when we asked for rides they said no. Really. They just said no, we'd already been out twice that weekend and we weren't going out again. They didn't even have somewhere they had to be, they just weren't going to drive us any more.
All of which was a pain in the ass for us which is why we were so eager to get our licenses. I literally got my license on my 16th birthday. Took my mom home, dropped her off, rolled down the window (with a crank window, remember those?) and drove right over to Diane Kleckner's house all by myself. I remember exactly how liberating and awesome it felt: it was the sweet, sweet taste of independence.
Something our children apparently are reluctant to sample.
Oh, I have to go now. I just got texted and Grace needs a ride.