“Hurry up and get your license so I can sleep in,” I told my youngest daughter.
She looked at me with annoyed eyes, and replied in a not-so-subtley annoyed voice, “I’m working on it. This stuff is boring!”
The stuff she was referring to was online Driver’s Ed. Imagine reading module after module about driving. Yep. I even tried to sit and read it but quickly moved on to another activity like folding laundry. The first driver’s ed online course I bought for her was scorched earth dry material. She left the tab open on the computer one day on “Learning All About Your Drive Train.” Oh my God. How horrible for her. I don’t even know what a drive train is, and more importantly, I don’t care. When something is wrong with my equipment, I take it to the experts!
I immediately bought a different program, one that my middle daughter had read and continually laughed at all the video explanations. I remember seeing her sitting at the kitchen table cracking up and then showing me the video. They were very humorous. It’s a clever program and it humor has a way of making information stick. Just think how much Jon Stewart helped people learn about what was going on in the world. He used humor.
How different my responses were to each daughter driving may be as revealing as opening one’s purse.
My oldest daughter wanted to drive the moment she turned 10. She couldn’t wait and got her permit at 15 1/2. I remember driving with her and being terrified. Not only was I not in control of a 2,000 lb bull-in-a-china-shop-on-wheels, I was at the mercy of a brand new, and not very skilled, driver.
I remember the day I applied my mom breaks from the passenger side and was yelled at by my 15 1/2 year old daughter who had been driving for approximately half an hour total in her life; we were on a four lane street turning onto a two lane highway.
“MOM! I see you putting on the break on your side and it’s making me nervous!” she wailed.
“I wish there was a real break on this side. You’re making ME nervous!” as she changed lanes mid-left turn right into the path of the car next to us.
I quickly learned that the best way to deal with such high levels of terror was to look down at my phone and see what everyone was doing on Facebook, praying to live to see Facebook another day. Fifteen minutes of driving instruction was all my poor heart could take. It pounded relentlessly inside my chest until I thought it would explode.
From that day forward, her dad had to drive with her and then a driving instructor. Every day that child walked in the door, safe and sound, I gave thanks and almost cried. It was a terrifying time for me, as it is for many parents of teens.
Along comes the second child and she wanted nothing to do with driving. I was ok with this as I believe that if someone isn’t feeling competent in a skill that involves herself and others, it’s probably best to wait. And boy, did she wait. I believe two things got her off her butt and feeling more confident: 1.) Every time she wanted to go to her boyfriend’s or a friend’s house, she had to be home by 10 p.m. because I wanted to go to bed and her dad would rarely agree to pick her up. She felt bad about making me stay up. 2.) She saw that even the most uncoordinated friends she had were driving. She must’ve thought to herself, “If xyz can drive, I can certainly learn how!”
My second daughter was confident she would be a better driver than her friends and the need to see her boyfriend whenever and wherever she wanted finally got her to the DMV to get her permit and then her license at 17 1/2. She’s a fantastic driver. I was her initial driving instructor because she was careful, deliberate, and applied the rules of the road always. Madison is coachable and when she made a mistake, she listened to my explanation of why it was a mistake and what to do differently next time. She didn’t yell or insist that I was stupid. She was a fast and thoughtful learner. And the funny thing is? Her dad didn’t drive with her at all. Hmmmm….maybe I’m the secret sauce in this driving equation.
Because of California DMV rules, Madison also had to have a regular driver training but I would have been happy to drive with her for however long it would have taken for her to feel confident. Now she’s getting on the freeway and driving downtown by herself. I have to laugh, though, the first time she got on the freeway was by accident. She had gotten into the wrong turn lane on a confusing section of Leucadia Boulevard in Encinitas. My heart went out to her but I also thought it was funny a la the scene when Dionne (played by Stacey Dash) accidentally gets on the 5 freeway in Los Angeles in the movie ‘Clueless.’ You must watch this scene for your daily chuckle, especially if you have teens getting ready to learn how to drive. Driving on the 5 in California is no joke and requires some serious skills and concentration.
After having three kids go through the driving years, I realize that there will always be terror as I sit at home waiting for their text that they’ve arrived at their destination safe and sound but I’ve been slowly making progress trusting they will be ok. It’s taken me eight years, and I still have my oldest text me when she’s going out of town, but I’ve definitely relaxed. She still rolls her eyes at me when I remind her to ‘drive like a freakin’ grandma’ but I think she likes that I care.
The first child was an enthusiastic albeit terrible driver (fortunately she’s grown out of that description). The second child was a reluctant but awesome driver, and now we wait to see what the third child brings. She’s not as enthusiastic as Devon was but she’s not as fearful as Madison. Sam lands somewhere in the middle. Here’s hoping her calm demeanor means that she’s a great driver because, seriously, I need some sleep!