A New Driver in the House

12.17.14

Roughly six months ago we bought Jane a car. We made this purchase mindfully. As soon as Jane had her driver’s permit I had her do the bulk of the driving. My preference being that by the time she was ready to drive on her own she had at least a hundred hours under her belt. Six months later I do believe she had considerably more.

We gave Jane six months of driving an average of 45 minutes a day in her own car before she was fully licensed. We bought her a crossover with great safety ratings and enough power to get on the freeway safely but not enough to get into trouble.

I taught her to drive without screaming, crying or hyperventilating. It was actually quite lovely and for the past six months we spent more time together than we had in months prior. I sat in the passenger seat as we wound our way through town, first slowly and then with a little more confidence. Finally we hit the freeways and then the freeways at night. It was fun watching Jane gain skill and confidence. It had been many years since I’d taught my child a new physical skill. Once they’ve learned to throw a ball, run a race and tie their shoes they sort of acquire skills at school or on their own.

Two weeks ago Jane and I drove to the DMV together and I sat with another mother as our girls took their driving tests. They both passed. I hugged the other mother and we hopped into the passenger seats of our respective cars having shared a lovely moment in time but never asking for each other’s names. Sometimes it’s better when you don’t pretend that these passing moments are the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes we just witness another person’s joy, sometimes we share it, and then we move on.

Jane drove me home from the DMV, left me at the front doorstep, waved goodbye and then drove off to school. Alone. I did what everyone does when there’s a big moment. I called my husband. He was in a meeting. So then I did what everyone does when their husband isn’t around to talk. I updated my facebook status.

Then I got a bunch of emails about how I’ll never stop worrying about my daughter which confused me because I hadn’t started worrying about her. If I didn’t think she was safe I wouldn’t have let her get a driver’s license much less a car. I keep hearing about all these parents who worry every time their kid jumps in the car and I wonder if they’re naturally worriers and no amount of preparation would have them ready for this next step in parenthood or if their kids are actually in peril behind the wheel.

Then my lack of worry makes me worry. Am I too glib? Do I expect my kid to be someone she isn’t? Am I missing warning signs of something dire? Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about? Why does everyone worry except me?Fortunately I have the attention span of a caffeinated flea so I forgot that I was supposed to worry about not being worried and went back to feeling very lonely. Feeling unneeded and irrelevant. When I do this parenting thing correctly they don’t need me much at all and it’s rewarding to know that the kids are okay even though, on occasion, it leaves me feeling very not okay.

This is Why UBER Should be on Every Kid’s Smart Phone

07.29.13

I’m at a party with my friend Laurie and we’re talking to this really nice guy who has a seven month old daughter. I’m typically really cautious when I talk to new parents because I don’t want to scare them. Especially Dads. Especially the Dads of daughters.

We totally failed when I started talking to Laurie about how unpanicked I am about leaving Jane to wander Century City with her friends. “She has Uber.” I said. And sort of shrugged.

Then Laurie and I started talking about why every kid should have Uber on their phone and when we got to the part about being a teenager and on occasion not wanting to get into a car with a Dad who plays grab-ass the new Dad looked at us with horror in his eyes. Even though 100% of the adult women at the party sort of nodded and knew what that felt like I was all, “Oh but times have changed. I’m sure it will never be an issue.”

Because ya know… new parents… sometimes you’ve got to lie to them.

Laurie was insistent that I’ve got to blog about it so, here’s how I use Uber with my kids.

I’ve installed the app on Jane’s phone because she’s out and about with her friends both during the day and at night. She also goes to parties and not all of them are with close friends. I’ve told her that she should use Uber to get herself home if she is ever uncomfortable getting into a car with anyone for any reason. Some of the reasons I’ve talked to her about are parents who have been drinking, parents who make her uncomfortable (and there doesn’t have to be a name for the discomfort), teenagers who make her uncomfortable (same thing, no reason needed) or if there’s anyplace she wants to leave and she doesn’t want me picking her up.

I’ve told Jane, and I will honor this, that if she gets herself home with Uber from a sticky situation at noon or at 2am there will not be any negative consequences. She won’t be in trouble for going to a party with alcohol or drugs. She won’t be in trouble for being out with friends. She will never be punished for getting herself home safely.

I’ve decided to give the kids Uber for a variety of reasons. Each and every reason in it’s essence is because I love my children.

When I met the Push Girls last year I noted that four of the five women I met were in wheelchairs because of car accidents. The accidents were all excessive speed or alcohol fueled. If a smart phone app can get my child home without risking dangerous driving conditions I’d be a fool to not use it.

Parents of teens: I’m going to ask you to do something we should all do at least once a day. I want you to be still and quiet and try to remember being 14 or even 17. Now put yourself at your friend’s house and their parents have just left. All of a sudden 5 other kids appear and they’re thinking about drinking a beer and smoking some pot. What does the 14 year old you do?

The only answer I have is that I know the 14 year old you doesn’t call Mommy for a ride home.

Now imagine the same scenario. The 14 year old you pulls out a smart phone (it’s probably already out) and texts for a town car. 14 year old you can hop into the back seat of a limo and get home. My credit card information is already stored in the app, no money changes hands and your private driver gets you home.

Boom. Done. Decision made.

Taxis in Los Angeles are filthy, dangerous and unreliable. Public transportation is something we struggle with and is only marginally safe. Plus there could be walks of up to a mile, kids can’t do that when they’re already feeling unsure. Los Angeles is not the worst city for public transportation but it’s close.

I’m totally okay with UberX and I’ve loved my drivers but I’ve asked my kids to use a black car first. I’d rather have a professional driver with them but if there’s an exceedingly long wait they should use UberX. With little kids I like that extra level of vetting but at the end of the day UberX would probably be just fine.

Thus far Jane’s only used Uber with friends during a scavenger hunt (long Hollywood story). I wasn’t exactly thrilled but part of me is delighted that she and her friends can get themselves around town and have experienced the app without me.

Remember when you’d go out and your parents wanted to be sure that you had $20 on hand to not spend, it was just in case money? Well, this is the just in case app and I think it’s brilliant.

If you haven’t signed up for Uber you can use my link here to get a $10 credit.

Uber ratings safety

This is my Uber account history

 

It Feels Like a Countdown

11.9.12

My kids are good kids. They’re not spectacularly well behaved and they aren’t straight A students. They are smart and funny and I enjoy smart and funny people. They aren’t completely altruistic though they have moments of stupefying goodness where my eyes well with tears and I know I’ve done my job well. They’re just sort of good kids, the kind of people you want to spend time with.

I got a new dance game for the Kinect the other day (I’d thank whomever sent it to me if I knew who it was) and Jane and I danced and laughed and found out that my reflexes are a lot slower than I’d ever imagined. Alexander sat behind us on the sofa with his cell phone instagramming and Kik’ing his life away and every so often he’d glance up and scream about us scarring him.

Note to self: be sure to dance in front of his friends if he ever needs a major punishment.

We’re only a few days past Jane’s 14th birthday and I can’t help but feel like there’s a countdown in this house. We are refinancing the house at 3% which is a rate I never thought I’d see in my lifetime but we’re doing a 10 year fixed because in 10 years it will be just Mr. G and me and there’s no reason to be in a house with all these bedrooms if there are no people around to fill them. Jane is applying to high schools now which means that we only have four years left until she applies to college and that child will leave me.

She wants to go to NYU. She loves New York and she loves downtown (I love it best too so I understand) and I always say that when Jane learned to walk she learned to walk away from me. She has forever been wildly independent and it’s one of the many things I love about her. Her independence has me feeling both successful and sad.

When we met with the headmaster at one of the high schools we talked about the commute. “It’ll be rough the first year or I’ll pay for a bus,” I explained to him, “But by November of her Sophomore year Jane will be driving and it’s officially not my problem.”

He asked me if I was worried about her driving and I sort of shrugged and said something to the effect of she’s a good kid, she’ll be a fine driver. And then headmaster (who has been in his position for more than 30 years) said that I was the first mother who had ever spoken that way.

I don’t mind being different but when thousands of families all have a deep worry that I simply don’t have I start to second guess myself. If she’s not ready to drive at 16 I won’t toss her the keys but why would I tell my 14 year old that I’m scared of her driving in two years? How does that set her up for success?

We’re counting down for everything. She’ll be driving and then she’ll leave me. And every so often when she reminds me that she’ll be going to Tisch (and she’s a persuasive child) I just look at her and ask her, “Why don’t you love me? If you loved me you’d go to USC.”

That’s normal, right?

I Worried About All the Wrong Things

07.2.11

Yesterday I left my house at 10am and drove the Mexican Border to retrieve my daughter from a week at surf camp. Her camp was nestled between an Air Force base and the Tijuana River Estuarine. It’s not the sort of place you find accidentally, you’ve got to have a plan to get there.

Traffic was magnificent from 10 to 11 so at at 11.30 I stopped in the OC and had sushi with Ciaran and felt good about the world. Then I had this hideous panicked moment where I realized I could possibly be late to pick my daughter up and I all but ran out of the restaurant in order to get back on the road.

I’d taken Mr G’s car because it’s been crazy hot and his seats are air conditioned. I should have taken my car because my seats are soft. After an hour or so more my bottom hurt like crazy and I found myself wishing for more fat on my ass… surely this is the only time in my life this wish will be made.

I arrived at Camp Surf just a minute after 2pm and the kids were in the water surfing. SURFING my little girl was out there paddling away on a long board. As much as I don’t want to live by the beach now, the beach was my childhood, and this Manhattan Beach kid almost peed her pants when when that little furshintkener started walking up the board to hang ten.

The hideous drive was absolutely worth it. My kid was walking across her board.

jane walking the board. I missed the best moments... of course.

And then she came out of the water and was pointing to her foot, and of course her friends all gathered round. She left in search of vinegar and I realized she’d been stung by a jellyfish. I’d spent my childhood being stung by jellyfish too, but we did the smart thing, we peed on our stings. We didn’t have to go roaming around a beach in search of a squirt bottle of vinegar. A little piss did the trick.

After Jane had been sprayed with vinegar she finally came to me so I could hug and kiss her. She coughed and sniffled everywhere. “That sounds awful.” I said, “Have you been like this all week?”

She nodded at me, and her counselor said that she’d been coughing all night long for the week. Jane went on to tell me that she’d spent one night in the infirmary and that she was bummed to have missed the morning surf session that day.

Then we went to the farewell barbecue and I got a sampling of camp food. There are no words. My poor sweet daughter.

When I’d brought Jane to camp I’d deposited $30 into an account for her to use at the camp store. They were allowed to buy a soda and a candy bar each day as well as tees, sweatshirts and some surf styled jewelry. At check out parents and their kids head to the store to get any change that might be left at the store. Jane told me she’d spent it all on candy and bracelets.

I worried that my daughter had been buying bracelets to buy friends.

We hopped in the car and started the long drive back to Los Angeles. Jane told me about her new friends at camp and a few of the brattier girls. She explained to me that they used grapes to demonstrate family trees and that Karen’s was the most complicated as she had four mothers and a father who wasn’t the sperm donor (hint: three divorces and mostly marriages to women with one man thrown in for luck). Jane coughed and sputtered a few times, she begged me to listen to Hits1, we listened to two songs and she fell asleep.

Our trip back to Los Angeles was full of serendipity and we passed by LAX just as Mr. G’s plane was landing. I nudged Jane to wake her up, pulled into a mostly deserted airport and watched as my daughter flew across the room to launch herself at her father while screaming, “DADDY”.

She hacked and coughed and Mr G gave her all the sympathy and hugs a little girl needs.

We drove home and she gave Mr G the same rundown she’d given me. At this point I’d spent seven hours driving and another 15 minutes as a passenger. To say I was feeling punchy was quite the understatement. When Jane told her Dad that she spent all her money on candy bars and bracelets I added, “for her friends” and Jane looked at me and said, “No mom, I bought them for you and Dad and Alexander.” I felt like the worst mother in the world.

We got home, unpacked and she ate basically everything in sight. My parents arrived a few minutes later with Alexander who lost his reign as an only child.

We’re back to being a family. Three of us are having a nice and restful Saturday, one of us is very very sick upstairs and watching TV all day.

 

I Taught My Daughter to Park the Car

02.10.11

Technically she’s not old enough to drive it, but I was driving at eleven and she’s plenty tall. At twelve she doesn’t have much good sense but to be perfectly fair I’m 40 and my decision making skills are mediocre at best.

So the other day when I needed to move the car out of the driveway and onto the street I tossed Jane the keys and said, “It’s your turn to park the car.”

I still have whiplash. She’s really heavy on the brakes and herky jerky on the steering wheel, but I figure these little lessons now are going to make it that much easier when she’s 15 and and half.