Adventures Childhood Family

Happy birthday, Allie-Bear

Happy 15th birthday to my Allie-Bear.

I haven’t publicly called my daughter Allie-Bear in a long time, mainly because she threatened never to speak to me again if I did, sometime around a fourth-grade field trip I was chaperoning.

But I figure I can dust off that old nickname for her now because, let’s face it — if she wants to get her license and use my car, I’ve got a lot more leverage now.

Yes, at 15, a child can become a legal motor vehicle operator, with a few caveats. My feeling is that a 15-year-old has as much business operating a car as operating on another human. Alas, state law allows for 15-year-olds to get a learner’s permits, and, from what I have gathered, if a 15-year-old does not get her learner’s permit as soon as she turns 15, there can be dire social consequences.

Plenty of folks get nervous about their kids driving. I suppose I am somewhat in that camp, as standard parenting requires it. But I also figure that if anyone is ready for a permit, it’s her. The main reason for this is that she is studious by nature and has spent the last four weeks studying the driver’s manual constantly, highlighting various sections, taking online quizzes, and peppering me nonstop about various driving scenarios. She’s like Macualay Culkin’s character in Uncle Buck.

When she gets her permit, she will be allowed to drive a car, as long as there is a passenger in the front seat who is 21 and has had a license for at least a year.

Note that the passenger does not have to be a good driver. They don’t have to be a certified driving instructor. It doesn’t technically say that person has to be awake. Just … there.

I find this a bit of concern. When my daughter takes the driver’s test, she could legally walk out of the DMV, see some drifter walking down the street and, assuming said drifter has a license, legally take the wheel if the drifter comes along with her.

So the first time someone legally assumes the wheel, they will have accomplished this: They will have taken a written test. It’s akin to telling someone they’re ready to take up bullfighting because they answered 20 questions about “The Sun Also Rises.”

My daughter even sees the slight flaw in this. The other day, we were in the car (relax, I was driving). She made this point: At 15, you should be able to get a permit that then allows you to take driver lessons with someone who, you know, knows how to teach you to drive. Granted, as soon as she said it, I think she kinda regretted planting that seed.

While she will take driving lessons from a certified instructor at some point in the near future (as is mandated by Gibbons household law), she will take the wheel before that. And I know who will be in the passenger seat next to her.

That’s right — a drifter I pay $20.

Ha! No, it will be me. I will take one for the team and begin the perilous journey of being a driver instructor, but without the benefit of that extra brake actual driving instructors have on the passenger side, one which, when I was learning to drive, was used with sometimes near-lethal force.

As much as it may concern me as she moves toward driving by herself, I know this is a part of life that kids grow into. They need to learn this just like they needed to learn how to tie their shoes and ride a bike and put their own dishes in the sink. I mean, really, how hard is it to take a glass from your room to the sink? It’s one glass! You’re going downstairs anyways. I mean, I just…

Sorry, got distracted.

So she will probably be driving this week. And that’s OK. Because I’ll be there to teach her, to correct her, to help her. And to threaten to call her Allie-Bear in front of her friends if she speeds.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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