Editor's Page: Time Flies, Baby


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Jayson Harper and Bella Grace, age 1 day and at least 15 1/2 years from getting her learner’s permit.

 

As I write this column, we’re close to the print deadline for this issue.  Usually, around deadline time, our art director, Jayson Harper, whose job it is to make sure all the pages are ready, looks a bit stressed.

Not this month.  The man is walking around on air, grinning.  Nothing bothers him, nothing could bother him.

Just five days ago he and his wife, Barbra Pleadwell, had their first child, a daughter, Bella Grace.  Since his mother is here to help care for the baby, Jayson is tying up loose ends in the office before going on family leave.  During that leave, he’ll probably acquire that glaze of fatigue that seems to settle over new parents.

At the moment, however, he is filled with that wonderful mix of jubilation, relief, pride and expectation, not to mention a little nervousness, that accompanies a new baby.

I know how he feels.  The minute I saw his face, I remembered wandering into the magazine offices in the same stunned but happy condition, when my older daughter Mallory was born.  It seems like yesterday.

It wasn’t.  In fact, what happened this morning made it crystal clear that I was at a whole different place in the parenting process from Harper.  This morning Mallory took her driver’s test, her first try.  She called me on the cell phone while I sat waiting:  “The instructor wants you to come out and move the car.  I have to go inside and get my driver’s license.”

It is not easy for a teenager to get a license.  Outside of jumping the usual bureaucratic hoops (birth certificate, original Social Security card, notarized statement from both parents, all just to get a learner’s permit), there’s mandatory classroom driver education, plus six hours of  behind-the-wheel training from a DOT authorized instructor, plus 50 hours of practice driving accompanied by a licensed driver.

In this case, the licensed driver was me, since my wife decided it would be too stressful for her even to contemplate.

Fifty hours is a lot of driving.  Especially since I spent the first few hours twitching in terror.  By the time we logged 20 hours behind the wheel, I would have sworn it was 50.  But Mallory kept a careful log, it was only 20, and so we kept driving.  When letting her drive the home-school leg of our morning commute wasn’t racking up the hours fast enough, one Saturday I got up and announced she was driving me to the North Shore for breakfast.  Even then we were far from 50.

The practice took nearly six months, so I felt I’d invested quite a bit in the process. When Mallory told me that most teens took three or four times to pass the driver’s test, I was unsympathetic.  “Just pass the first time,” I said.

She did.  Now I feel that same mix of jubilation, relief, pride and expectation, not to mention more than a little nervousness, that must come with your children’s first flights from the nest.

Just wait, I told Jayson, it’s like you blink twice and they’re almost grown up.

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