Our farm was seven miles from town. Our teenagers were involved in many extracurricular activities at school and church. That meant those fourteen mile round trips were frequent. We drove them to friends' homes, school functions, the gym and church and spent way too much time waiting outside these places to take them back home. We were eager for each of them to reach the age when they could legally drive alone. At fourteen years of age they could get a school permit in Iowa. From that time on they could drive alone as long as it was to a school sponsored event.
Our oldest child played the organ and, as a beginner, she got the poorer assignments. Getting up to play at the 6:30 Mass in the morning during summer vacation was what we considered a poorer assignment. She did it willingly, even riding her bike the seven miles to town and back home when weather allowed it. We drove her on excessively cold, windy or rainy days. It wasn't always easy because at that point we had a houseful of little boys who wanted breakfast about that time.
She was not the only one in our family who looked forward to the day she could legally drive. Her dad and I were also eager for that day. Oddly, each of our first five children were born on Saturday and the birthday which qualified them to apply for a license landed on Friday, the only day of the week the license bureau was open in our county. Each of them got their permit and license on the very first day they were eligible.
They had all driven the riding lawn mower, the tractor and/or the pickup on farm roads and in fields for 2 or 3 years before they got that first permit. We were secure in the knowledge they could safely drive the roads in our area. A big traffic day was when you met more than 5 cars on the drive to town.
Twenty-five years later I viewed this driver's license thing from a different perspective. My daughter's firstborn living with his parents a nine-hour drive from us told us he was getting his license. My mind does not allow any child to grow or change in my absence. For this reason, Alex wasn't big enough or mature enough in my mind's eye for the challenges of driving anywhere, much less doing city driving. The city where they lived intimidated me and I am a veteran driver. He got the license in spite of his grandmother's misgivings.
His mother fielded my objections by reminding me that we not only allowed, but encouraged, her and her brothers to get learner's permits as soon as they could. The qualifying age had not changed. All that had changed was my perspective on it - learning to drive at 13 and getting a school permit one year later now sounded absurd to me.
I met each of my grandchildren's excitement over getting their driver's license with the same sense of foreboding. On day an almost 13-year-old was dreaming aloud about her upcoming birthday. "I can get my Learner's Permit" she exclaims.
"What is this nonsense? A Learner's Permit for a little one like her? She'll need to sit on a cushion to reach the pedals," I said, voicing my worries.
"Have you looked at her lately? She is almost as tall as you." Her grandpa was supposed to be on my side but it didn't sound like it.
This same scenario has played a half dozen times now and it still throws me off balance. Oh my. They are growing up too fast. Grandma wants to stop time for a bit until she catches up. Grandpa tells me to concentrate on the ones under 10 and let the parents monitor the activities of those older. "Who knows how soon it will be before they are saying it is nonsense to grant a license to someone as old as Grandma?" he asks. Boing!