This week my life became simultaneously easier and harder. Explain, you ask? Well, over the weekend we acquired a new (to us) car (more on that in a moment). So no longer do I have to drive Teddy to school while John drives Lorelei. Teddy gets to drive himself! No longer must I roll out of bed at 6:30 and nominally (maybe I should say MOMinally) dress myself in my “uniform”–the well-loved skirt that requires me to pull my sweatshirt WAY down while sidling like a crab if I must go into Weigel’s for lunch money on the way to school.
So how is this harder in any way? Well, folks, I am still in my nightgown. The other kids are abed. It’s early, I’m tired, and the only one setting the schedule around here is me. My bed calls. And now every morning I must resist its siren song and enter the office instead.
Now, about that car. Well, when our house burned down, two of our cars were totaled as well, John’s Lincoln and the Dodge Durango that we were saving for the kids to drive. Right away, my dear friend Kris emailed to say that she and her husband, Colin, wanted to give us a car that they no longer needed. (thank you, THANK YOU, Kris and Colin!!) Problem is, they live in Florida, and it took us until last weekend to get ourselves together and figure out how to get the car here. So last Friday, John flew to Tampa (there’s actually a very cheap one-way flight!) and on Saturday, he drove home in our “new” 1997 Mazda Protege. Since it’s small, and a stick shift, and gets 35 miles a gallon, it makes sense for John to be the one who drives it, leaving me with my minivan and Teddy with John’s 1998 Lincoln. We feel safer with him in a larger vehicle, yet another reason to mourn the tank-like Durango.
Wait a minute, I can almost hear you calling, while you count on your fingers. Teddy can’t be 18 yet, can he? No, Jake just turned 18! Why is Teddy driving anything anywhere? What happened to “my teenagers aren’t allowed to drive until they are 18?”
Life happened, y’all. Our views have not changed, but sometimes philosophical views take a back seat to real life. Here’s how it happened.
When our house burned down, Jake and Teddy were immediately deluged with offers of temporary homes with their friends. We were staying with my sister, who never complained, but six additional people is kind of a lot. It made sense to lessen the burden–and to make their homeless situation “fun”–by letting the boys stay with friends. It also solved what would otherwise have been insurmountable transportation problems. With only one available car, three kids in school, and John in court in as many as three counties in a day, we needed help. All Jake and Teddy’s friends could drive, and we really had no choice but to cave on letting the boys ride with other teenagers–even after we had our own place–until we settled with the insurance company and acquired another car.
The problem is, you can’t really put that horse back in the barn, can you? And once you’ve let the kids ride with other teenagers, it doesn’t make any sense to say they can’t drive themselves. Our plan had been working as foreseen with Teddy–he got his permit as soon as he was able and started begging to practice. Pre-fire, he was already doing almost all the driving, albeit with a parent in the car. So shortly before he turned 17, John took him to get his license.
Neither Emily nor Jake drives. Emily got her learner’s permit over the summer. I recently observed Jake studying for the test. Our plan did not work with them because once they knew they wouldn’t drive at 16, they lost all interest. William is not quite 11, and I know better than to state absolutes that far in advance. Our current plan is to hold to the driving at 18 rule for him, BUT require him to obtain his learner’s permit and start practicing as soon after he turns 15 as possible.