A boy, 9, in India is driving a Ferrari while my son, 17, confused R for D

In India, a dad celebrated his son's 9th birthday by letting the boy drive the family's Ferrari. A viral video of the drive led Indian authorities to arrest the dad. Still, the nine-year-old hurt no one. That's more than my teenaged driver-in-training could say.

As a birthday surprise to his son, age 9, Dad Mohammed Nisham of India handed over the keys to his shiny, red Ferarri F430, put another child in the passenger seat, and sent them off on a fast and furious joyride. The YouTube video went viral, dad was charged by local law enforcement, and all some of us can do is marvel at a parent who can hand over the keys to a child while our own teens have to pry them from our death grip.

To be clear, this is not a case of a child on a farm driving an old pickup across the barren plain. This is a suburban street where, in the video, we can see another car travel down the road in the Ferarri’s wake. In defense of the child’s skills, The Times of India reports this isn’t the unnamed boy’s first time behind the wheel. 

“The boy is reported to have driven some of the family’s other vehicles including a Lamborghini and Bentley,” according to the boy’s mother, who also is alleged to have told The Times of India that she was proud of her son’s driving skill and was hoping to encourage him. 

I’m not sure which is harder to get my mind around, the kid at the wheel while Mom cheers and takes pictures, or the laundry list of Gone in 60-Seconds-worthy automobiles this child has driven.

My son Quin, age 9, watched this video with me before he went to school today and said, “That’s crazy! Letting a nine-year-old like me drive? He should at least had a 12-year-old behind the wheel. That’s crazy!”

Last week Quin finally mastered riding a bike and is now tearing up the neighborhood where college students often careen around corners at high speeds. I’m afraid to let my nine-year-old out on his bike, so putting him in control of anything Nicholas Cage would steal in a film or Lucas Black would hop into for the next incarnation of "Tokyo Drift" is out of the question.

Back to the fast track of our India 500, police eventually became aware of the video and have since charged Mr. Nisham for encouraging underage driving and for allowing an unlicensed child to drive a vehicle, according to the Times Of India. 

Nisham allegedly let his son to drive the car as a surprise on his ninth birthday, after the boy had pleaded for months for permission. There is a time to listen to your children’s aspirations and a time to tell them, “I want a seal that barks my name and that’s not happening either.”

For Nisham, I believe, this was one of those times when he should have picked the seal over the Ferarri.

I think that maybe I’m a little envious of the parents’ total abundance of confidence in their son’s abilities because the first time I got my son Ian, 17, behind the wheel last year I left a scream behind that you can still hear echoing on quiet afternoons.

Last fall, a year after all his friends had already been on the road, Ian was still adamant about not getting behind the wheel, stating flatly, “I don’t want to die, and I also don’t want to kill anybody, and that’s what’s going to happen if you make me drive.”

This is the same kid who hops on a featherweight bike and weaves like greased lightning through traffic all over the city of Norfolk, Va., and neighboring areas. This is the guy who became the youngest to attain a Gracie Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu at 15 and who regularly takes on some of the most deadly opponents on the mat.

This is a kid who was absolutely right, and I should have listened to him. In an empty parking lot when told to shift into drive “D” and slowly ease-on the gas pedal, Ian put it in “R” and, lead-footed as The Iron Giant, shot us backward at high speed. We travelled backward, across the lot with my forehead on the dashboard from sheer centrifugal force until we jumped over a decorative barrier and my left foot found the brake pedal. This freed my head and engaged my scream circuits even as I realized he was already screaming, “I TOLD YOU!”

It didn’t get better. The next day he tried to change lanes without looking and we nearly dogpiled into a 7-11 with three other cars.

Fortunately, a few years ago, I read a book called "The Worst Is Over: What to Say When Every Moment Counts — Verbal First Aid to Calm, Relieve Pain, Promote Healing, and Save Lives," by Judith Acosta and Judith Simon Prager. The authors tell you to look at the person in crisis and say, “The worst is over. We’re past it now and we can get better from here.”

The book also warns you not to lie and give false hope. So in Ian’s case I said, “It’s OK. The worst is over, I hope. Let’s just sit here for a while longer.”

He got much better because he’d been expecting my screaming to continue and morph from the series of prayers I was apparently shouting, to reproach. I was just too happy to be alive to chide. Now Ian’s an excellent driver and about to take his road test.

However, since I had a video camera set up on the dashboard the event was recorded and has now acted as a deterrent to son Avery, 14. When Avery’s pal came to visit from North Carolina waiving around his new learner’s permit, Avery said, “I don’t see what you’re so excited about. You now have permission to pilot a multi-ton missile into inanimate objects and living beings. Pass!”

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