It’s an uncomfortable topic for both us; for my 16-year-old because he thinks my knowledge is archaic, for me because I never thought it would come up. It reminds me of the first time I took one of my sons to buy protective athletic wear for his manhood and we had to determine the right size. These are not the kinds of things mothers anticipate talking about with their boys.
“Are you nervous about parking?” I ask him. He rubs his palms on his thighs and eyeballs the backs of his hands. “Yes, ma’am,” he answers.
Remembering my teen years, I advise, “Find a spot away from things, where nobody will see you.” He nods. “Go slow. Take it easy. No need to rush,” I tell him. “Don’t let anyone pressure you.”
The problem is I’m his mother. He’s seen my kind of slow. He doesn’t want to still be pondering his approach when the Twinkie exhibit in the Smithsonian finally disintegrates. He’s young and virile. Slow is for traffic lights, siblings in the bathroom and his grandfather’s driving.
I suspect I’ve misjudged boys all my life. I always thought they were naturals at this kind of thing and that it’s girls who need coaching and prodding and nudging when it comes to parking. Maybe my son and I should have engaged on this much sooner. The relevancy takes center stage now that he has his own vehicle. “Leave yourself room to back out and start over,” I instruct.
This child isn’t a talker. It’s difficult to discern what’s wriggling around in his skull. Does he want my help or does he want to figure this out on his own? Would he rather that his father counsel him?
“Look around to see what other people are doing,” I continue. “Parking can result in unintended accidents. You need to be careful.” He doesn’t flinch at the pointedly ridiculous pairing of unintended with accident. Is he listening? Then his eyes roll upward, signaling that he hears me. “If you feel like you’ve messed up or gone too far, stop. Get out and walk around the car. It’ll give you perspective,” I tutor.
To tell the truth, five years ago, it seemed like he would be a little boy forever. But I turned around one day and had to look up to tell him to sit down. Now he’s in the driver’s seat.
After all of my guidance, it’s time for him to go it alone. Parking is an issue, though. He needs more experience, and there’s only one way to get it.
The Georgia DOT representative who tests the boy for his driver’s license confirms my concerns and the child’s. He warns that my son has shaky skills when it comes to parking and suggests more practice. On the other hand, the tester comments that he demonstrates competency on the straight and narrows and the curves. He possesses confidence and maturity in decision-making on the open road.
This outsider’s assessment provides relief. The boy has his head on right. He’s ready for a little freedom and to figure some things out without my constant supervision. As vexing as it is, I’ve got to trust that the kid will figure out the finer points of parking, too.