Thursday, March 1, 2018

Parent Fail #15,749

He had been waiting for this day for months.

"You know what we're going to do for your birthday?" my 15-year-old son would randomly ask his younger brother. "We're celebrating it at the DMV!"

Of course, there was no real reason for us to do that. Jared actually turned 15 1/2, the magic number for getting his driver's permit, the day before Jack's birthday. But I guess the combination of excitement over getting his permit and the ever-present desire to torture his brother created an opportunity just too good to pass up.

Fortunately for Jack, his brother is a bit of a procrastinator, so by the time he got around to scheduling his appointment at the DMV, the first available was February 28, a whole 28 days past his birthday. Jared was disappointed that he would have to wait, but I on the other hand sighed in relief, grateful to put this next step in his evolution into adult off for a few more weeks.

The time went quickly, and before we knew it, we were a week away from The Big Day.

"You should start studying for the test," I told him one day, driving him back from track practice.

"I already am," he informed me. "I've taken a couple of practice tests on the app."

Of course there's an app. 

In my mind, I had been envisioning the old paper booklet that I had had to pick up from the DMV office and study by reading it over and over. Everything was done electronically now; it stood to reason that the DMV would have joined the modern age as well. My age was definitely showing.

As The Big Day got closer, an action plan was put in place. Jared's dad took the day off, so he would pick up Jared from school and drive him to his 1:30 appointment. He asked his dad to pick him up at 12:20, so I'm pretty sure there were secret lunch plans, involving pizza no doubt, that I was not privy to.  Then, if all went according to plan, by the end of the day, my child would officially be able to learn how to drive a car.


"Jared, make sure you have everything you need for your appointment tomorrow," I reminded him the night before.

And thus began Parent Fail #15,749.

It should have been an easy thing. Gather up the necessary documents: proof of driver's ed, social security card, and birth certificate. Easy peasy. The form certifying that he had completed an approved driver's ed course had been hanging on the side of the fridge ever since he got it, several months before. I knew where his social security card was, and his birth certificate would be in the file with all the birth certificates. What could go wrong?

"Mom, where are my social security card and birth certificate?" he asked.

"You social security card is in the tray in the computer armoire in the game room and your birth certificate is in a file." He went off to search for them as I continued to make large California-shaped sugar cookies in the kitchen.  (Just another one of those weird things teachers do.)

A few minutes later he returned to the kitchen and declared, "I can't find them."

"You looked in the file tray in the armoire?" I asked. In my house, I am known as The Finder of Lost Things. This is not because I am particularly talented, mind you, but because the rest of the household is notoriously bad at finding things that are usually right in front of them.

"Yes, and it's not there."

Great. If it wasn't there, I had no idea where it was. To make matters more complicated, we had recently torn out the built-in desk unit that we had had for years, and many of our files were still in boxes, waiting for us to find the time and energy to organize them and find them a new home.

What followed was an hours-long search by Jared, my husband, and me. We went through files, even ones that would make absolutely no sense for the missing documents to be in, and we went through them again. I was amazed at the things I did find, things that I had absolutely no use for. The two documents we did need, however, remained MIA.

"I found my social security card!" Jared proclaimed in the middle of our search.

"Where?" I asked, relieved that at least we had found one of the missing documents.

"In the desk thing in the game room," he said.

I cocked my head and looked at him, giving him The Eye.

"Did you find it in the file tray?" I asked calmly after staring at him in silence for a few moments.


"You mean, where I told you to look in the first place?"

"Yeah. I didn't look through all the papers the first time," he replied. 

Because there was still a birth certificate to be found, I didn't waste any time on useless lectures about looking through things thoroughly.  We continued to cover ground we had already covered while racking our brains to think of where else it could be. 

It was getting late and the mystery had still not been solved. I wasn't willing to give up, though. Even though I was hesitant to see him take his place in the driver's seat of a real car, I knew how much this meant to him. And even though he handled it with grace, telling me to go to bed, I knew he must be crushed. To come so close and to have his dream snatched away, all because his parents hadn't been organized enough to be able to lay their hands on his birth certificate when he needed it. I retreated to my bedroom weighed down with the burden of knowing I had let my son down.

"We're going to have to get another copy," I told my husband, who lay in bed with his iPad in hand. "I wonder how long it takes."

He didn't respond, but I noticed that he was now busy typing into his iPad. 

"Are you looking it up?" I asked.

"Yeah. The office is on Hazel. It says it takes about 20 minutes," he told me.

"So you can go in the morning and get it? Jared can still take his test?" Relief washed over me. The crisis had been averted.

Later the next day I received the text I had been waiting for: "He passed!" My son was on his way to becoming a driver.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I can honestly count what happened as a bona fide parent fail since we were able to fix the problem before it became a catastrophe. Maybe we're still holding steady at #15,748. 

I read yesterday morning that perfect parenting is a myth. In our house, that's a given. But when I look at my son, and the grace with which he handled our almost-disaster, never once complaining or casting blame, I have to wonder if what I consider to be my failures have somehow played a role in shaping him into the smart, confident, and understanding young man he is becoming. 

If that's the case, then maybe, just maybe, my failures are not true failures after all.


  1. feel very real - the sibling angst - the search
    love the bit about California shaped cookies
    I want to know more

    congrats on your parenting success

  2. I could feel your frustration and determination as I read your piece. Probably because so many of my nights have been spent searching for something I was sure I knew where it was and it wasn't!

  3. This is such a great slice, Amanda! It brought me right back to my 17th birthday (I grew up in NJ.) and how I didn't want to take the test on my birthday just in case I didn't pass. I went the day after... and luckily I passed it!

  4. The Finder of Lost Things--yes! And so frustrating when something is NOT in the place where I just know it is. I really enjoyed the pacing and character development in this piece. It's incredible to think about how many mini-parenting fails are avoided every day.


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