Blue Boy recently turned 16. The milestone that represented freedom to my generation is barely acknowledged by his. Forced by his mother to use his summer time to get his driver’s learning permit, he was then able to drive cross country to Chicago with his grandfather, providing rest for Mike and experience for Blue Boy. I would have loved to be a fly on the window in that car.
But he is in no hurry to get his license. And it appears he is not alone. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, of which I can access only part because I am too cheap to purchase a subscription, “The percentage of teens with a driver’s license has tumbled in the last few decades and more young people are delaying purchasing their first car—if buying one at all, say analysts, generational experts and car industry executives. About a quarter of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2017, a sharp decline from nearly half in 1983, …” [italics mine]
Turning 16 in the 1960’s was the ultimate teen experience celebrated at the DMV office with our first solo drive following our test; first order of business: dropping our parents at home. Freedom was slightly curtailed as we bargained the use of the family car shared by parents and siblings. Few of us owned our own auto and those who did were guaranteed passengers. In addition, there were family and legal curfews to observe.
What is the difference today? To those of us with limited public transportation, one family phone, and no internet, a driver’s license opened our world. ED attests that the kids today enjoy enough camaraderie and entertainment online to mitigate the urge to get out. The introverted Blue Boy senses that a license will limit his freedom by granting his mother the clout to send him on errands he would rather avoid.
It will be interesting to see how Mowgli handles this milestone in two years. I have a feeling he may not be so reticent.