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Since the new school year began, my weekends have been pretty dull. I spend a lot of time trying to catch up on household chores.

Jimmy’s cross country races and Ronnie’s soccer games have become my sole form of entertainment. If I’m really feeling adventurous, I allow the boys to talk me into making a trip to Wal-Mart.

Just hearing about it is probably putting some of you to sleep!

Last Sunday, all three Zich boys were ready to head out the door for another exciting visit to Wal-Mart. Ron didn’t want to go, as he had spent the morning fishing and was settled in for an afternoon of watching his Redskins lose another game.

“Can I drive?” Jimmy asked.

“Of course,” I said, and the two of us made our way out to the car. Ronnie and Tommy, however, had stopped dead in their tracks.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

In response, they both began to whine about having to risk their lives whenever Jimmy is at the wheel. I did not realize how strongly they feared for their own safety until they surrendered a Sunday afternoon trip to Wal-Mart.

In all honesty, Jimmy is not a bad driver. He is just very inexperienced, having had his permit for only a few months.

Unlike many teens who finally get a chance to drive, my oldest son is hesitant to take the wheel and brave the local traffic.

I don’t blame him. If I had lived in this area when I turned 15, I might not ever have dared to drive.

Commuters in the greater-D.C. area are the most aggressive drivers in the world. Five days a week, ordinary working people leave their families and cute puppies at home to transform into monsters.

I’m sure there are official surveys declaring Atlanta, Chicago or Los Angeles to be much worse, but I don’t care. I know the truth; these people are always in a hurry.

Even on the weekends, traffic can be heavy as all the people who rushed to and from work Monday through Friday try to get their errands and shopping done.

Once the holiday season arrives, Jimmy can forget about Sunday afternoon drives to the local Wal-Mart because everyone else will be rushing to get there first.

Luckily, my son goes pretty easy on the gas pedal, much to the annoyance of everyone else on the road. My fear is that he will become one of them someday, too focused on “getting there” to enjoy the ride.

On the positive side, I have told him that by learning to drive here in northern Virginia, he should be able to handle traffic anywhere in the world. Going around Kadena Circle on Okinawa should be a breeze for someone who has survived this place.

I realize the only way Jimmy is ever going to have the confidence to handle himself on the road is to gain lots of experience, which will only come with me sitting in the passenger seat, patiently guiding him.

It’s not the most comfortable place to be, and I often catch myself trying to push down on a brake pedal that isn’t there. But I consider it one of those rites of passage every parent has to go through, and now it’s my turn.

Just like all those other “firsts” that my oldest son and I have gone through, we have to brave it together. He’ll come out of it being able to drive on his own, and I will be more prepared to go through it all over again … and again.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 19 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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