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Sunday, January 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Teenage daughter isn’t the only beneficiary of driver’s license

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 16, 2019

Lucy Ditto recently received her Washington driver’s permit. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
Lucy Ditto recently received her Washington driver’s permit. (Julia Ditto / For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

If every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, then every time a mom shouts the “Hallelujah Chorus,” her oldest child has gotten her driver’s license. Such was the case at our house a week ago when my oldest daughter, Lucy, passed her driver’s test and was deemed officially fit to drive by the state of Washington.

This has been the biggest game changer for me since Netflix launched its streaming service. The moment she held that piece of paper in her hand, I felt the shackles falling from my wrists. Of all the titles I might confer upon myself at this point in my life, “overworked Uber driver” is the one that most accurately fits the bill.

I have been tethered to a minivan or a Suburban for the past decade and a half, held captive to the scheduling whims of basketball coaches, dance instructors, piano teachers, Scout leaders and friends. But no longer! Now I have backup (never mind that she’s not that good at actually backing up; I’m happy to have whatever help I can get).

Our odyssey began in January when Lucy signed up to take driver’s ed. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening for five weeks, she sat in a sparse room listening to lectures on the finer points of driving, including how to back around a corner, parallel park and come to a complete and excruciatingly long stop well before you get to the actual stop sign.

Interspersed with these lessons were actual driving experiences with an instructor and two terrified fellow students held captive in the back seat of the driving school sedan. I can vouch for the fact that they were all terrified because I also was a passenger on many a driving practice. Students are instructed to get 50 hours of practice with a parent before they can get their license.

My first drive with her was to a friend’s neighborhood that is so close, we can literally see their house from our driveway. But with new-driver Lucy behind the wheel, that simple three-minute drive turned into a terrifying 15.

Curves in the road that are normally taken at a reasonable 20 mph were rounded at a torturous 5. Climbing the slight hill that sits between our two homes was so slow that it felt like the drawn-out ascent of a roller coaster before it plummets you toward certain death. And death is what I was certain was coming next.

Luckily for all of us (including you, if you ever drive on Spokane’s roadways), she’s only gotten better since then. She’s actually a very good driver now – cautious, and with a slightly lackluster record of making it between the lines when parking – but someone I trust to schlep herself and my other children from point A to point B.

And schlep them she will. Mere hours after she got her license, I sent her out to fetch her brother from basketball practice and take two of her other siblings to piano lessons. In that moment, the heavens parted. “I won’t have to drive to youth group anymore!” I thought excitedly. “Or zero-hour high school classes! Or grocery stores, Saturday night parties or playdates! I might never get behind the steering wheel again!”

In fact, as I was typing this, Lucy came into my office to ask if she could take her three little brothers on a hike. “Why on earth would you want to do that?” I asked, genuinely confused. She shrugged her shoulders. “I just want to drive somewhere,” she replied. “Even if it’s just to the trailhead.”

“Yes!” I said. “Take them! Take them all! Come back in an hour. Or two. It doesn’t matter.” This teenage driver thing is going to work out very well for me indeed.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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