Family / Kids

The Milestone of the Front Seat

Sitting in the front seat of the car was never all that when I was a kid. It was just another place to sit. The view may have been unobstructed up front, but frankly I preferred the back. Before you go where I’ve already gone – before you make some crack about liking it in the rear, it just so happened that I liked sitting in the back seat where I was out of view of the driver. There was a sort of privacy I appreciated while the driver kept his or her eyes on the road. It was spacious, too. I could stretch out in the back without being restricted by those pesky seatbelts. The front seat had little to offer.

Today the front seat has a much greater appeal. The difference between front seat and back seat is monumental to a child. For most of childhood, kids can only imagine what it might be like up front in what seems like a car-cockpit surrounded by controls and displays. From GPS maps to digital radio/CD/DVD controls to buttons with functionality I have yet to discover, the front seat is an interactive wonderland. And even more than that, it’s off limits. No child left behind does not apply in the car where a child must remain behind until they are 4’9” or 13 years old. The front seat is strictly adults-only.

Asher is not yet 13, but he is 4’9”. As he approached this height, he made more and more inquiries about that passenger seat. He wanted to know when exactly he would be promoted to the first row of the minivan. After some discussion about the overall safety of sitting in the back seat regardless of age or height, we agreed that if the journey is short, and if I was feeling generous, I would invite him to the front.

It wasn’t long after that conversation that I kept my word and asked him if he wanted to sit in the front seat. I wasn’t half way through the question before he practically jumped from the back seat and buckled himself in as if he had been practicing for ages.

“What’s this?” he asked reaching over to the hazard light button. Fair enough it being a triangular bull’s eye of sorts, but I had to lay down the law. He needed to learn that the dashboard was not an electronic play station.

“Don’t touch, please. Just because you’re in the front seat, that doesn’t give you license to touch everything – especially if you don’t know what it is.”

He nodded as he fully accepted the conditions of the front seat, and I saw that he didn’t just want to sit in the front seat, he wants to belong in the front seat. I watched him settle into this new spot. He studied all the buttons and dials and resisted the urge to fiddle with everything. I was surprised how well he filled out the chair. He did look like he belonged.

What I didn’t anticipate when I gifted Asher with this new privilege was that he was more prepared to reach this milestone than I was. I didn’t realize that I would see him differently the moment my 11-year-old buckled in next to me. He fit there. He didn’t look like a child playing grown-up, like Edith Ann in the rocking chair. He just fit.

edith-ann1In an instant, I saw in his face the man my son was quickly becoming. I blinked, and that man was gone, but I realized at that moment that it wouldn’t be long before I’d see him again.

It occurred to me that there were fewer and fewer milestones these days to check off a list, like rolling over, walking, eating solid food, talking. At this point, his development is slow and steady and sneaks up on me at times like this when I’m not expecting it. He surprises me with sneak peeks of adulthood.

Before starting the car, I caught his eye and gave him a smile. “What do you think?” I asked. “It’s cool,” he said trying not to sound overly excited. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool that you’re up here with me,” I said also trying not to sound overly excited.

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  1. Oh I still remember those days and what a celebratory day it was in the life of my girls. They had to wait until they were 13, however, because of their height but you can bet on their birthday it’s where they were sitting gleaming!

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      So sweet, Julene! I had no idea it would be such a momentous occasion. The thought of him driving, however…THAT makes me feel more than a little queasy!

  2. Vikki Reich says:

    I enjoy having my son in the front seat. It feels like we are co-conspirators.

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