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Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 1999 /28 Elul, 5759

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Son now has a license to grow up --
ALTHOUGH THIS DAY was inevitable, I'm a tad overcome. Still your fluttering hearts, dears, I'm not surrendering the column. I'm just counting the minutes until I wake up my boy, wish him a happy birthday, and triple my prayers forevermore.

Fifteen years ago today, the little darling was born, changing my life in ways I had never imagined possible. For one thing, he accomplished what parents, teachers and other adults in my life theretofore had been unable to. He made me a conservative. Most mothers say the birth of their children awakens their heart. My heart was already in overdrive such that no stray beast, human or otherwise, crossed my path unnoticed. I was an emotional reed, swaying in the breezes of sensitivity. To think, I coulda been president.

The birth of my child awakened, instead, my brain. Suddenly, I was a logical, reasonable, thinking being. I knew the difference between right and wrong, after all, and things were not, contrary to that tedious term I was wont to use, "relative."

Today, the little master who has been my universe strips away yet another layer of consciousness, this time to reveal my darkest fears. He gets his driver's permit.

This is the end of life as I know it; I can feel it in my bones. Even though he can't drive without an adult for another three months - and not at night for another nine months after that - the days when I had control over his destinations are as good as gone.

Also gone are the days when I could reasonably prevent death or serious injury just by being there. How are parents supposed to make the leap from "Stop banging your walker into the good table" to "Drive carefully" in just 15 years?

We've done everything possible to prepare for this event. The moment John passes the written test and receives his learner's permit, he has a date with a driving instructor. "Dad" and I have taken him for a few spins on dirt roads, but this time it's the real thing.

Real traffic, real road signs, real speed limits.

Earlier this summer, John took several hours of textbook classes and knows rules I never heard of. He tackled the driver's handbook with unusual enthusiasm, staying up late memorizing how far you park from a curb or a driveway or a fire hydrant. He's taken pages of notes, which suggests one thing.

If we want to raise test scores in this country, make children's driver's licenses contingent upon a standard of performance. The rule is: If you can't find a square root or diagram a sentence, you stay home. We'd have to take all that extra government money we keep hearing about and build new universities to accommodate the swell of brilliant children.

I suppose I should be relieved. No longer will I have to drive my child to the doctor, the dentist, Blockbuster. If he's dying for a Coke, he can go get one. If he wants to see a movie, he can drive himself. But that's the point, isn't it? If he no longer has to come to me for a ride, big brown eyes full of humility and love, what exactly will he need me for?

Prayers, I suppose. And, of course, fuel. If we make a driver's permit contingent upon learning square roots and gerunds, why not give a daily quiz for fuel. We'll start with something easy: What war was caused by the conflict over the boundary between Acadia and Northern New England? Not on the tip of your tongue?

Ah, well, perhaps he needs me after all.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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