Tween and Teenagers
Teaching You to Drive is Driving Me Crazy
As we write this we are teaching our youngest children to drive. This is a path we have been down before, but as our impulse for self-preservation is undiminished, we still find it a bit frightening this last time. Learning to drive may be one of the great adolescent milestones but for parents it represents a major push back from our kids as they claim their independence from us.
Mary Dell is teaching a daughter and Lisa is teaching a son, so in effect we are living on different planets. The one thing we share is the deep scary realization that we are placing a lethal weapon in the hands of children we love, but who we know to be only part way on their journey to maturity.
The adolescent brain craves risk in a way that it never will again and it is at this moment that we climb into the car, our nervous, or perhaps worse, over-confident teen behind the wheel and we say, “Daddy will be really angry if you get us killed, so let’s take it a step at a time.”
Driving with a daughter:
This is round two for me as our college-aged son learned to drive at the same school, with an almost identical car, and shared DNA. How could the results have been so different?
“Honey, you need to speed up a bit” is a direction I can swear to you I never gave to our son but have heard myself saying, somewhat incredulously, since our daughter passed her road test a month ago. Apparently, mastering the on-ramps of freeways is curriculum that Drivers’ Ed delegates to parents. Yikes!
Her cautious approach, while greatly appreciated by risk-averse parents, sometimes confuses other drivers. I try to explain that fellow travelers expect behavior that is not perfectly polite. Behind the wheel is a time to be a bit pushy.
Signs that there is a girl assuming possession of the family car? Hand sanitizer at the ready, multiple pair of sunglasses for accessorizing needs, pastel key fob dangling from the ignition. These greatly appeal to me, especially as the car was more of a traveling locker room when driven with son. Cleats, workout gear and multiple footballs infused the car with an incongruous scent of sweat and Axe body spray that endured even after our son left for college.
Driving with a son:
My youngest son is the fourth male in my family that I have helped learn to drive. My husband was by far the easiest. At twenty-eight he had a full-blown sense of his mortality and of our impending child. But now I am teaching a sixteen-year old son to drive and this is just a sampling of what I have heard this week:
“When you are not in the car I am not going to drive like this, slowing down smoothly and speeding up smoothly, I am just trying to keep you from getting car sick.”
“How hard can it be, there are only two pedals and a steering wheel?”
After I pointed out that the oncoming traffic has the right of way when making a left hand turn and you cannot gun it and cut in front of them as he had just done, “Okay, I’ll give you that...”
“I am ready for the highway...come on, I have had my permit for three days and I have driven at 30 and 40 MPH, I am ready for the big time.”
“There is no way I am letting him pass me, getting passed is for wimps.”
While I might joke about this on the page, as a parent we all have very big concerns about this monumental step that our adolescents take. Is this just young male bravado, or do I have real reason to worry?