If He Can’t Handle 10th Grade, How Can He Handle a Car?

I have been agonizing with what to do.

School starts on Monday, and I wanted very badly to let Dylan “do it all himself.” I want to go an entire year without contacting his teachers, without asking him if he’s done his homework, without checking every day to see if he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.

We start the school year with a contract for each boy. The contract outlines expected behavior, and consequences of behavior that is inappropriate or otherwise detrimental to their own lives. I’ve delayed creating the contract because while my head is begging me to let this be THE YEAR that Dylan does what he’s supposed to do, this is entirely dependent on Dylan suddenly outgrowing the behavior that has been with him since he was in fourth grade.

Dylan is also preparing to drive a car. In a few weeks, he’ll be old enough for his learner’s permit. But having his learner’s permit does not make him responsible enough to drive a car – no matter how well he’s done in his go kart.

In fact, the go kart is sitting in the garage waiting for Dylan to put a new belt on it. It’s been broken for the entire summer, and Dylan claims that he hasn’t “had time” to fix it. Surely, ten minutes of those 7,000 hours he spent playing the keyboard could have been spent fixing that go kart.

It’s a fine example of how Dylan is not quite responsible enough to drive a car.

So I am thinking that we make his driving privileges contingent on his ability to know when a test or a quiz is taking place, to know when he’s got homework – and (perhaps a miracle will happen!) when to turn it in.

I don’t want to take away his phone anymore. I don’t want to take away his music time. I don’t want to take away his voice lessons. And his favorite job in the world is coming up, too – scarer at Field of Screams. I would never, ever want to take that away from him.

But if Dylan can’t remember to turn in his homework, how will he ever remember to turn on his turn signal, turn his head and look into his blind spot, and glide over into the next lane calmly? If he can’t study because he’s too distracted by Snap Chat, how can he drive a 3,000-pound vehicle down the road without Snap Chatting? If he can’t handle 10th grade, how can he handle a car?

Hm. I think I may have inadvertently discovered the answer we’ve sought for so long.

We can wait for Dylan to drive until Dylan proves that he’s mature and responsible enough to handle something simple – like school. And I don’t mean “remember your homework for a week and drive forever,” either. I mean, “BE responsible, so we’ll know you’re a responsible driver.”

This may be the only way to move forward – and save his life.

Even if he doesn’t like it.


  1. Beth Davis says:

    I look at my kids and see, even with the youngest being not yet four, that maturity will come at vastly different levels. Two will likely drive as soon as they able, two may never drive when they’re at home with me ha in to sign permission forms. Same parents. Same genes. Crazy isn’t it?!

  2. Sharon Summers says:

    You’re spot on, cuz. I had a similar situation when my twins reached driving age. We had a talk that went something like this…

    Me: “If you’re not mature enough to remember whether or not you have homework…if you’re not mature enough to DO your homework when you know you are supposed to…if you’re not mature enough to clean up after yourselves, whether in the kitchen, the bathroom, or the bedroom…..then you’re not mature enough to drive a car.”

    Them: “Oh.”

    Jennifer and Jill didn’t get their drivers’ licenses until they were almost 19 years old. They didn’t like it a lot back then, but now they both thank me for steadfastly refusing to allow them to drive until they were ready to handle the responsibility. Dylan will thank you, too, one day.

    Love you all!!

    • Kirsten says:

      Dylan wants to drive more than anything in the world. Who knows? Maybe this will be the catalyst that finally makes him start acting like a young adult. If not, then driving will just have to wait! Thanks for sharing. I’m sure glad I’m not alone.

  3. Kirsten says:

    That’s what I said, without all the foreboding. Thanks for sharing. Next time, feel free to share your name, too. We’re all friends here.

  4. A. Concerned Friend says:

    If there is ever any question as to whether your son will be responsible behind the wheel, it is your responsibility to the rest of us not to allow him behind the wheel.

    And at 15 years old, he will never learn to do for himself if you continue to do for him. From someone who was coddled with ADD for her whole childhood, it made for a VERY harsh reality when I went away to college. You owe it to him to let him fail. He may surprise you. And if he doesn’t, maybe theater, extracurriculars and field of screams and driving won’t be possible.

    You are a good mom. Your grown up son will thank you for it someday.

    If the priority is school you have to actually make it the priority. He’s a good kid. He can figure it out.

    And really, if he isn’t prepared to get on the road, DONT LET HIM! It isn’t just his life at stake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *