HANGING ON TIGHT

The curse of second children seems to be that they’re not ever the first. Not the child to make parents out of us, not the first to have a birthday party, not the first one you drop at school, not the first to leave home, go to college, or have a girlfriend. To be sure, each child is unique and there are things that you haven’t seen before, but by and large, by the time that second child shows up you’re already seasoned parents and feeling well-equipped to handle all the things that make up a child’s life.

Our second son has had quite a few months over here. If you remember, last spring he was hired for his first summer job which led us to the labyrinth of his lifeguard certification.

He began lifeguarding in June and as his employer was understaffed, this basically meant we didn’t see him for most of the summer. In July, he turned 16 and we couldn’t even find time to do more than have a family dinner with his grandparents because he was working so much and even when he wasn’t most of his friends were lifeguards and they were working.  

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That sort of distance gives you a lot of perspective.

Watching him at his birthday dinner and seeing him express his amazement and gratitude on opening his gifts, I noted that once again we’d taken yet another step toward adulthood. Gone were the toys and ride-on cars he used to covet for birthdays.

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Gone was the boy who couldn’t sit still or needed to be prompted to thank his grandparents. In his place was this mini-adult – a polite teenager who thanked us all more than once, taller than me now and, while still pleased to be the center of attention, didn’t quite know what to do in the glare.

Yep, that’s a money birthday cake!

Sixteen, of course, a big number for a teen boy here as they can finally obtain their learner’s licence. He eschewed the customary paper driver’s manual I picked up for him – his studying was done by app on his phone. In September (after finishing his summer job and starting back to school), I took him for the licencing test and he passed – first try.  After the test, I bravely handed him the keys to my vehicle determined to make this moment even more memorable with a quick trip around the car park of the DMV. His face showed his surprise and joy as we took a quick snap of him sitting in the driver’s seat with his hot-of-the-presses permit.  And then we drove.

Pic of disbelief and joy (and that's behind the camera!)

Pic of disbelief and joy (and that’s behind the camera!)

Even after going through this once with my older son, this experience wasn’t any easier. It’s amazing how quickly you forget that ABSOLUTE TERROR of sitting in the passenger seat (even in a parking lot) with a teenage driver at the wheel totally in control of your fate, the fate of your vehicle, and of everyone else on the road. And that jolt the first time he applies the brakes even only driving 10 miles an hour…in that moment, as it saves you from hurtling through the windscreen, you’re reminded why seatbelts are mandatory. Often during our initial forays, I reminded myself of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles who, when sitting in the passenger seat, has to peel his fingers out of the dashboard after a near-miss on the freeway.

Credit: Google Image Search

Credit: Google Image Search

Somehow, we got through those first terrifying days to a more comfortable place. He’s been driving about 3 weeks now. He’s learned to ease into the brakes, not to follow others too closely, and how to navigate a turn with a bit of finesse. He also points out my own mistakes when, on the rare occasions, I do get to drive. During these moments, I remind him that he is the statistic…..the male, under-25 driver that insurance companies hate and police know will be the cause of most accidents. Therefore, I tell him, his driving needs to be much better than my own. Hah.

Even though a level of “comfort” has grown on my part (though I still hang on to the overhead strap in the passenger seat most of the time)…..Switching places in the car – him driving, me riding – gives me a new view.

Perspective gives you a lot of distance to notice different things.

Sitting there in my passenger seat looking over at this earnest new driver so determined to do everything right, I’m trying to come to terms with a whole new person…A boy no longer little enough to sit on my lap and pretend drive – turning the steering wheel and making crash noises and vrooming sounds. This young man with a prominent Adam’s apple who shaves, spends more time on his hair than I do, and who takes great pride in having different tastes than mine yet who still looks for my approval on other things. A teen who has adapted to two new schools and moved house three times in under two years – cutting through the stress involved and making a new life for himself joining the swim team, the ski team, and even holding a job. And now, less a person just living in the moment and more a person who looks ahead – trying even to anticipate what others on the road might do in an instant. Perhaps that last one is a gift from the lifeguarding this summer, I don’t know.

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What I do know is that this whole driving thing has been an eye-opening experience with this son in a way it never was the first time. Sometimes, maybe being second is better…..at least on my end this time I’m very well aware of where we’re actually headed.  It’s occurred to me more than once that in handing him the keys to my vehicle, I wasn’t just giving him permission to drive. I wasn’t just stepping into a new experience with him. No, in handing him those keys, I was also giving him license in my mind to continue growing up.

 

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88 thoughts on “HANGING ON TIGHT

  1. Oh man, this really moved me. I have all this yet to navigate with my two boys and I loved reading about your perspective. That last paragraph spoke to my heart and I hope to remember those words one day.

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  2. Oh how lovely Torrie! As a momma of two boys – now 28 and 25, I know these feelings so well. 🙂 And hey! Love the money cake! Did you know I made one just like that for my son last year?! 🙂

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    • Oh how quickly you forget…….of course I remember that ….it’s where I got the idea! I almost captioned the pic, “Yes, Jodi, this is your cake!” But thought it might be too confusing for those unaware. Anyway, thank you again for the idea. It was a total hit!

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  3. I loved this. So amazing to see them growing up into young men.

    Must add, though, that despite having not only a 16-year-old but also a 19-year-old, I am yet to go through the learning-to-drive stress. There is a distinct lack of interest on their part. I’m not sure I mind. I figure every extra year of maturity is an extra layer of safety.

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  4. This post brought back so memories of my own. I had never drawn the connection before, but you are so right … getting that student driver’s permit is such a major milestone event during a time when milestones are on constant parade.

    I laughed at the comment about being corrected in your own driving. Yes … I experienced that too, but only with #2. Son #1 just smiled wisely and said nothing 🙂

    As you pointed out, it’s a milestone for us too … it’s that moment when we start to really let go of that child we held so closely.

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  5. Oh gosh, I remember driving around with my mother when I was practicing for my license. Absolutely terrifying. Yes, I hear that when boys reach the age of 16 or so, they suddenly grow up. Waiting for that day with my now almost 13 year old. What a nice handsome son you have!

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    • Thank you, Marissa. He’s a good boy and for certain I’m so grateful to have him! Not sure that they magically just “grow up” at 16, but for sure there is a layer of maturity there that wasn’t only a short time ago.

      I can only imagine you learning to drive. Am hopeful that your mother also had one of those handles above the passenger seat! 🙂

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  6. I have 2 boys of my own. The older couldn’t wait to start driving, the younger, 8 years junior, can’t be bothered to convert his learner’s licence into a full licence.. Everything seems to come easy to the older one. The younger one seems to have to work thrice as hard.

    Swimming: The older one was taken for lessons and learned nothing. Then once we moved here, we used to live in Niagara Falls. The neighbour took him along with her kids to the pool next door and there he was swimming. The younger one went through 3 sets of swimming courses and we despaired of him ever learning swimming. He ended up as a competitive swimmer approaching provincial C timings ( with a leg that had been broken and was under the scanner for possible cancer as the cause of the break ). He held a job at the YMCA as lifeguard and swim instructor….

    I grew up as #8 of 9 kids. I often see myself as the “forgotten one” !

    I grew up with column shift and then stick shift manuals and even after moving here to North America drove a manual till 2005. Today, on the rare occasions I borrow my elder son’s car, I get instructions on how to drive a manual and tire usage…

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    • My goodness, Ajesh, you have certainly got the stories, don’t you? I guess now I know why….as one of nine children growing up and having 2 boys of your own, there’s tons of fodder there!

      It’s the same with our second one….doesn’t seem fair how much harder to come by things are for him sometimes….but I do console myself with the knowledge that in the end, he’s a very strong person mentally and emotionally and he’ll be able to weather whatever life tosses at him down the road.

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  7. A very sweet post, Torrie. Although our son was the second child, he was driving before his sister. Even at fourteen, the young lady who rented our garden cottage would happily give him her keys so that he could move her car if it was blocking the access to our garage. He has given me a few hair raising moments as a passenger, but only since he’s been living in NYC, where one’s driving has to be as scary as that of the cab drivers, in order to survive. 😀 Congrats to your young star on obtaining his lifesaving certification. You must be so proud of him.

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    • Thank you, Sylvia. You’re right, I am indeed a proud mother! However….I am not a brave mother as you evidently are….I don’t think I could ever drive in NYC myself let alone with one of my sons behind the wheel. You are a star!

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  8. I am the second and last one – One thing that I could see was that letting go was easier for my parents with me, probably because they have done it once already. I don’t know, not sure.
    Your son must have had a time with that cake BTW 🙂 Looks so happy!

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  9. what a beautiful post – and the wonderful ending was my fav:

    No, in handing him those keys, I was also giving him license in my mind to continue growing up…

    ahhhhh
    so good.

    I am still just easing back into blog mode – but glad I was able to drop by – b e back to see you later on amiga –

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  10. I have three girls but when you hand over car keys it doesn’t matter, they all get in the same car with the same fears running through your body. Never fell asleep until I heard the door open at night. I know it’s part of the process but its one of the worst parts of that process.

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  11. A fabulously introspective piece, Torrie! It must be hard to let go, yet you are doing so splendidly. You have, clearly, raised a son who is, and will continue to be, a credit to you and your husband. I wish him – and you, of course – every happiness in the world.

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  12. It took ours much longer to become a young adult, Torrie, and much of the fault was probably mine, but it is wonderful to see him finding his place in the world and accepting responsibility (as well as having a good time 🙂 ) I can feel your pride 🙂

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  13. Perspective is definitely important. Of course, I’m relating it to photography as we have no kids yet. But in all aspects of life it is important. A very nice homage to your son, his growth, and yours!

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    • Kids, cameras….not much difference, eh? Hah! I agree….perhaps it just never hit me this way till now how big a difference perspective makes. Guess you’re well ahead of me in this too, Emilio…LOL. Thanks so much for your kind words!

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  14. Miriam says:

    Beautiful post. Happy birthday to your son. I was just telling some friends yesterday that I was not looking forward to going through the whole driving thing again. But we can’t stop changes from coming.
    Love the money cake!

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  15. Love this post, it had me grinning from ear to ear on my usual boring him drum journey.

    He’s a good looking lad that boy of yours, he must take after his mother!

    I admire anyone who can drive, not being able to myself. Look at is this way, you don’t need to go to a theme park, you can have your very own white knuckle ride any day you wish lol

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  16. I went through the whole driving thing this summer with my daughter, also a second child. I love how you describe the feeling of getting in the car with a new driver behind the wheel. Truly terrifying! I keep thinking that even though this is the second time I’m doing all these things, in our case, it’s also the last since she is our youngest. It’s all very bittersweet.

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  17. You know, it seems so far away still for me and yet it’s lurking just around the corner. I realize that my boy is growing up and my daughter is not far behind… Soon he will learn to drive…

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  18. What a great read! I love the comparison to then and now and the transition from little boy to young man. It is bittersweet, isn’t it?

    Now put yourself in MY shoes… I have BOTH boys learning to drive! The elder was in no rush to do each necessary step so, though he should have had his license by now, he is still finishing up his driver’s ed (obligatory here). He’s on section 4 and the younger just finished section 1 and officially has his learner’s. I have yet to drive with him though I am surprising him when he gets home… pray for me…

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