The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 12, 2013

LEVINE: Watch out, new driver coming

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — My continued quest of feeling older took another step toward that direction.

We celebrated my daughter’s third birthday this week. And just to make sure my scalp didn’t stop producing gray hairs, my wife and I bought our daughter a car.

Sure, it’s only about an eighth of the size of a real car, but it still has four wheels, a large battery and can be operated with a foot pedal.

Wasn’t this moment supposed to happen in...oh, I don’t know...30 more years?

Instead, my girl wants to drive everywhere, even in the rain.

On our way to gymnastics Wednesday, she motioned us to go ahead without her, while her pink Barbie mobile sat waiting for her in the garage.

“I’ll drive, Dad,” she said.

With rain dropping on my head and my car door half-opened, I sat in awe of those words.

“Since the top is down on your car, you can’t drive in the rain,” I said, hoping the rain would continue to pour down on me.

She reluctantly jumped in, but I have a sneaking suspicion this won’t be the end of that conversation.

Growing up, I always thought the kid-sized cars were neat. I’m not sure if I ever let my desires known that I would like to own one, but every kid dreams of acting like Mom and Dad racing down the highway — albeit at 1 mile per hour.

My wife and I figured this day would come. Every time we go to a store that has these cars available, our daughter races toward the display, and jumps in the driver’s seat.

She turns the steering wheel and makes driving noises as she imagines herself cruising down the road, with her hair blowing in the wind, much like Mom and Dad (little does she know that Mom and Dad don’t really know about our hair blowing in the wind while driving, since having a convertible as an adult is not as accessible as being on every toy shelf).

So when she walked into the garage Wednesday with her eyes closed, ready to see her present from Mom and Dad, the time had come for imagination to stop, and reality to begin.

Needless to say, she wasn’t quite at the stage of Mario Andretti.

She did a little dance, singing “I have a car,” and then hopped in, much like she would at any other toy store. She buckled in and played with the steering wheel, until she accidentally touched the pedal and the car took off — for a foot.

“Oh, sorry,” she said.

OK, so she wasn’t even at the driving level of my wife on an icy afternoon.

To her defense, she only had our one-car garage to maneuver in, and sometimes I have a few troubles navigating through that space. Eventually she got a better handle on the car, but she wasn’t quite ready to do “donuts” in the driveway. A few more lessons with me, and she should be at that level.

Soon, she’ll be driving around the driveway with her friends in the passenger seat, but they must be little, according to her, meaning that her “dorky” parents are relegated to the sidelines. She also believes her car will give her a better opportunity to bring people over for dinner, since she will now have transportation to complete her requests for having friends eat at our home.

I can only imagine what will happen when she’s 16.

I hate to sound cliche, but it seems like yesterday that she was crawling on the ground, moving her toy car with her hand, while making car noises with her mouth. Now she’s on to the real thing...at least in a miniature version.

As soon as the rain stops, the world will be much more open to my daughter, at least from the garage to the edge of the driveway. If she sneaks away and you see a little girl in a pink car, looking for a friend to pick up for dinner, please tell her to return to her parents where the rite of passage for any new driver awaits — grounding.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.