Happy Birthday Carter



What would make a teenager wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when she could sleep in? The answer has to be that it’s her fifteenth birthday and she was going to the DMV to take her learners permit test.   Yes, Carter is fifteen today.


As I was driving her over in the grey drizzle of the morning light I thought about this day fifteen years ago when I was just looking forward to finally meeting Carter.  I could not even imagine getting to this rite of passage then.


I looked over at my daughter who is a good four inches taller than me as she studied her road signs and I just blinked thinking about the day she learned to ride a bike without training wheels.  I remember watching her ride with confidence away from me that first time and I cried knowing that it was the beginning of the independence a child feels when they control where they are going.


Of course I get to spend the next year in the passenger seat as she master’s driving amongst the other citizens on the road. Time in the car has always been a place of great discussions, confessions and advice.  I am saddened thinking that I have only 365 short days left of our time together especially since I don’t really want her to tell me about her school day when she is driving.


Driving is one big step away from home.  I’ve spent the years training her to be ready to go but have done nothing to get myself ready.  All these driving courses and learners permits and provisional licenses and what is there for parents?  No course in being ready for our child to leave the nest.


I am not a bird who lays an egg and pushes that baby out of the nest to learn to fly and then lays another egg and does it all over again.  I have but one little bird, no more to come and although I want her to fly far and high I know I will miss her.  I already miss holding the steering wheel.


So, happy birthday Carter.  Congratulations on passing your learners permit test.  Your father and I are very proud of who you have become and are still becoming.  Just remember you are always welcome to sit in the passenger seat and tell me about your day.

A Life Without Left Hand Turns



Carter is fast approaching her fifteenth birthday.  For her that means she gets to take her learners permit test and begin practice driving.  For me it means I get to spend the next year nervously in the passenger seat.  Carter is a good driver, lord she should be she has been driving at the farm since she was six or seven when she was the size of a small adult and could reach the peddles.  But driving on your own property, in fact in vast open spaces, without other crazy drivers coming at you is easy.


As I was driving my regular route to Carter’s school this afternoon to pick her and her friend Paloma up to go to the movies I thought about the traffic I was encountering.  There is one terrible intersection where I have to make a left hand turn and every other car at the intersection has the right away over me and the traffic is never ending.  Making a left hand turn without the aid of a traffic light is a real test in my patience.


I counted how many left hand turns I had to make on the quick nine-minute trip to school — In total there were six.  Now the way I go is not the only possibility, but it certainly is the fastest if you can skillfully make all those left hand turns between speeding cars whizzing past you.  Thinking about a new driver, even a good one, having to negotiate those left turns began to make me nervous.


Come the first few weeks of driving I think we will go the less perilous longer routes until Carter can gain the confidence needed.  But as soon as I’m comfortable I want her to practice as many left hand traffic filled turns as she can while I am still in the passenger seat for guidance.


Sure a parent can try and smooth things out for their teenager by always finding the all right hand turn ways to go, but at some point life is going to throw you a left hand turn.  Better to learn how to handle yourself in difficult situations and practice over and over again so it just does not become such a big deal.  This is all easy for me to say now when I still have ten days before the actual driving starts.  I wonder what other life lesson situations I can throw Carter into while she is still living at home?