Childhood Family

Permit me to be terrified

Disclaimer: This column is not about guns or gun laws. Yes, it starts with a mention of the gun debate as a jumping off point, but please don’t stop reading just because you see the word gun. I don’t do politics in this column, and never have. The most controversial subject I have tackled was the grand debate raging through our home on the proper way to eat corn on the cob. (The correct answer is typewriter style, not the barbaric way of corn cob rotation that my wife continues to try and indoctrinate our poor children with.) Now, to the column:

One of the talking points that comes up in gun discussions is raising the age of purchase to 21. A common rebuttal is, “Should we raise the driving age to 21, too?”

To which I immediately think, “YES! At least 21. How about 30? Can we do 30?”

I realize this is my knee-jerk reaction because, in less than two weeks, my son will be eligible for a learner’s permit. You know, that thing that means you are legally allowed to operate a car. An actual car. Yes, the state of South Carolina is going to be a-ok with that, assuming he can pass a written test.

This is the person who often cannot find his shoes, and when he does, they are often not in the same room, and have even been on entirely different properties.

This is the person who recently asked me if he could hide in the attic and sit above his sister’s room until she and her friends got there so he could pretend the house was haunted. (Answer: No, because your mother is home.)

And now this is the person who will be able to drive a car? Oh, lawdy.

In all fairness to him, I believe he does understand the big responsibility of being in charge of a car. And he is surprisingly risk averse when it comes to speed. Roller coasters? No thank you, for him. I am hoping that applies to when he is behind the wheel as well.

Initially, he was rather indifferent about nearing the legal age to drive. That is quite the opposite of his sister, who was there when the DMV opened the first morning she was eligible to take the test. Same with when it came time to get her actual license.

But he was kind of meh about the whole thing. We weren’t going to push it, because if he wanted to kick that can down the road, fine by us (and our insurance premium).

But the other day, we were driving along and he said, “Dad, want to hear something terrifying?”

My answer, of course, was, “What have you done?”

He said, “No, nothing. I think. But this is terrifying: In two weeks, I can get my permit.”

Terrifying indeed.

My guess? It occurred to him that, with a driver’s license, he has vastly expanded his potential fishing holes. He’s nothing if not pragmatic.

So this week I will go to the DMV and get him the study guide to take his test. When I told him that, he was thrilled that he was going to have to actually study for it. “Do you think I could just take it without studying?” I considered saying yes for a second, guaranteeing he wouldn’t pass that way. But that would be wrong for multiple reasons, so I said, “Trust me. You need to study the guide to pass the test.”

So fairly soon, I will take our freshly minted 15-year-old to take his learner’s permit test. But I’m OK if wants to hold off. I can take him when he’s a bit older. Say, 30.

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


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