A Rite of Passage: How We React to Our Children’s ‘Firsts’

Some call it a rite of passage. I call it a blessing or simply wonderful.

You bring your children up in a world of unknowns and try to do the best you can. From the time your kids are born to when they walk for the first time, ride a bike, go off to school, grow into adulthood, get married, and have families of their own, as a parent, we never know how we are going to react to our children’s new experiences until they happen. Invariably, when that moment occurs, it’s a special kind of feeling and a great memory.

They may be going through a rite of passage, but it is we who surprise ourselves by how we react to our children’s firsts.

This recently happened to me when my 16-year-old son Robbie bought his first car. For the last three years, he has been working hard and saving his money. About seven months ago, he got his learner’s permit. For these past seven months, he has been patiently accumulating driving hours, whether by his taking the wheel when we drove to school or on weekend outings as a family or even to church. A half-hour here, an hour there; slowly but surely, the hours added up.

With just 10 days to go before Robbie was scheduled to get his driver’s license, we went out and bought a car. I say “we” because Robbie had skin in the game. From the money he had saved mowing lawns, he was able to contribute 25 percent to the cost of the car. Pretty good on a 15 year old’s wages.

They say driving is a privilege, but for a young person turning 16 years old, getting a license is not only a privilege but a rite of passage to the next phase of his or her young life. What makes getting the license all that much sweeter is being able to acquire a first car to go along with that moment.

As soon as we pulled into the dealership and passed by the car that we assumed was the one we had seen online, I knew this would be the night we were going to make our purchase. We had been casually looking at cars for months, and more recently, Robbie had even test driven a few. As we were getting closer to him getting his license, the energy toward a car purchase became more palpable.

“They say” that when buyers find their new home, they know it’s the right house by the feeling they get when they walk inside. I like to say that the house starts to sing to the buyer. As we approached the car, unlocked the door, and climbed in, I got the same feeling I had so many years ago when my wife Debbie and I bought our first house: This is it! 

Robbie test drove the car and when we pulled back into the parking spot in the dealership, I asked him what he thought. “I love it!” he said. I looked at him, smiled, and replied, “Let’s go buy a car then.”

As we sat there and negotiated, I hoped that Robbie was taking it all in. Negotiating is part of the car-buying process, and the conversations with the salespeople revolved around how cool it was for a kid Robbie’s age to be buying his first car. We were all telling our own stories of buying our first cars. When we finished with the paperwork, our salesman Pete took pictures of us in front of the car. It was fun.

At the same time, I was holding back the tears. It was a special feeling to be there with my son as he experienced this rite of passage. And while family is a special bond, it always feels great when my clients find the home that is the one for them.