I’m home alone right now. I say “alone”, technically Samuel is in the house too, but he’s blissfully drifting through slumberland right now so I’m not sure that counts. My wife, on the other hand, is out. With another man. Thankfully this isn’t an affair I’ve suddenly unearthed, but it’s arguably worse. She’s having driving lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the idea of Ellie driving – I’m sure she’ll be a fantastic driver, and I have no concerns about that whatsoever. I’ve already taken her out a few times to try to teach her the basics, and she picked it up fairly quickly. In the space of three lessons I had got Ellie to get the car moving, change gear (up to third at one point), stop without stalling, steer around parked cars, negotiate junctions, even do a few hill starts. That, though, was a couple of years ago, and a lot has happened since then to get in the way of her doing any more driving. Now it’s become more important, so we’ve got her some proper driving lessons with a proper instructor in a proper learner’s car. And to be perfectly honest, I’m terrified.
I completely understand why Ellie wants to drive, and I don’t blame her for it at all. It’s going to be incredibly useful for all of us if she can drive. She can drive me to work and have the car during the day to go into town, do the shopping, take Samuel to various places, and pick me up in the evening. We can share the driving on long journeys. She can go out for a jaunt if she’s in the mood for it, without needing me to come too. She’ll have the freedom to go where she wants, when she wants, without inconveniencing me or anyone else. It’ll save us money on bus fares. Ellie will be able to ferry me around if I break my leg or something. Eventually we could even get a second car and we could both drive around at the same time. It’ll be fantastic.
But, all that said, I’m still somewhat nervous about the whole thing. Driving has always been something that has defined me. When I was a kid I dreamt of being able to drive. If I played a computer game, it was invariably a car racing game of some sort. I loved playing with toy cars. I was fanatical about classic Minis, and bought various Mini-related magazines. I still have a large collection of model Minis in our display cabinet. I got my provisional license as soon as I was eligible, and started having lessons right away. My Dad taught me to begin with, and then once I’d got the basics I had some paid-for lessons too. I was proud of how few lessons I actually needed, of how naturally it all came to me, and equally proud of passing my test first time round with only two minors (both of which I dispute, incidentally). Now I’m the man of the house, the head of my little family, and I take great joy in being able to ferry everyone around. It’s something I’m good at, something I’m needed for. And now Ellie is muscling in on my territory, forcing me out of my place of comfort as the sole driver in the family, challenging my dominance and making me share what has so far been my own position of responsibility.
Actually, when I put it like that, it does sound like I’m a little child again, not wanting to share my favourite toy. But I suppose that’s what it’s like, really, I’m just a bit older. ‘Driving’ is my toy. It belongs to me. It’s mine. And now I’m having to share. And I don’t think I like it.
Yes, I know I’ll have to get used to the idea, and yes I’m sure in time I’ll really appreciate the benefit of having someone else able to drive, and yes I know I’m being silly about the whole thing, and yes I ought to be more supportive of my wife, and yes I definitely will be incredibly proud of her when she passes her test. But for now, it’s still a lot to come to terms with. Deep down, part of me will still mourn the loss of my status as ‘the one who drives’.