Summers used to be such an idyllic time. No alarms, no lunches to make, and no constant homework cajolery. Because my ex-wife and I are both fortunate enough to be self-employed, we’re not into over scheduling the kids when school is out. Which means the most constant parent-imposed activity is for them to bathe occasionally.
This summer, however, has imposed a new theme that has upended everything we’ve ever held dear about summer: permit driving. The drudgery, it seems, is now on the other foot. And that foot is phantom-braking in my passenger seat.
If you haven’t driven with your teenager, rest assured that it is completely insane. First of all, as a child of New Jersey, I didn’t get to drive until I was strapping, level-headed, nearly-adult 16½ years old. Letting a callow, 15½-year-old newbie, who still can’t figure out how to hang up a bath towel, behind the wheel is just completely wrongheaded.
Watching your kid drive your car for the first time is also one of those milestones that nobody ever tells you to expect when you’re expecting. I mean, sure, it’s great to learn about sleep schedules and colic and how to steam away croup, but no matter how prepared you think you’ll be when you first put your life in your kid’s hands, you are not going to be.
And yet, despite the fierce urge to wrap your body in a fetal ball and secure it to the dashboard with duct tape, you need to deliver the world’s most amazing acting job and convince them that this is all just fantastic.
You know the data, which tells you that although Michigan is one of the safest road states, a human’s chance of dying in a car crash over their lifetime is 1 in 645. You’d think, therefore, that the key to a convincing performance as The Parent Who Is Absolutely Not Freaking Out is to willfully forget the data. And that would be easier if those highway signs didn’t constantly remind you to slow the hell down because ‘a hundred people have died on this highway since you left the house.’
It’s hard enough to learn how to send your kid away from you and out into a kinetic, random world; you also have to watch while they learn the fastest, most dangerous way to do it. I’ll tell you right now that I’m still not feeling prepared to do it. But as far as my acting goes, Daniel Day-Lewis ain’t got nothin on me.