For all you parents out there who have kids under fifteen, just wait. Just wait till they get their learner’s permit. Then you will truly understand how nerve-wracking it is for the parent.
My daughter could not wait for the day she turned fifteen for that meant she could get her driving permit. I was okay with it. I know she has to learn sometime and after all I got mine when I turned fifteen also. In fact, I had been driving way before that on a property that my dad owned. Anytime he would go out there to work, I’d tag along at age twelve or thirteen and take the car around on the property while he worked. No biggie.
So the magical birthday rolls around and soon after we were at the DMV getting her permit. I was still feeling comfortable about the whole driving idea. That afternoon I took her to a huge parking lot where I knew there would not be anyone around. It was one of those places that had gone out of business. Took her there and explained what she needed to be watching for on the dashboard gauges. We went over the positioning of the seat and mirrors. Finally, she was ready. I settled down on the passenger side and we were ready to go. She took it nice and easy. I had her driving as if she were on the road, staying in the proper lanes, stopping for imaginary lights and signs. All in all it was a good driving experience.
THEN she was ready to drive on the road. My gut clenched, the nerves started firing and I found myself making excuses on why today wasn’t the right day. A few days passed and she kept after me to let her drive on the road. We live in a busy city and there are no light days to take her out for a practice drive. It’s jump in traffic and go. I ran out of excuses and so we finally got ready for her first drive on the road.
I handed her the keys. She had to tug on them a bit because my fingers just didn’t want to unhook from the key ring. Getting in the car, she began adjusting the seat and mirrors while I was still lecturing her from outside the car. I reminded her of the blind spots and how she would have to get familiar with the blind spots of different vehicles. I walked around the car and had her look in the mirrors for when I disappeared from sight so that she would get a good feel of where she could easily miss something. As I lectured on and on about the blind spots and all the different possible scenarios where she could run into trouble while driving, she finally looked at me and said, “Mom, you’re stalling. Let’s go.”
Agh, she was so right. I was stalling. The realization that I was about to hand over the controls to the car to my fifteen year old daughter was finally hitting me full force in the face, FIFTEEN! That age all of a sudden seemed way too young to me. Reluctantly, I got into the car and prepared myself.
Buckling in, I kept an eagle eye on everything she touched. Made sure she put it in reverse and not drive. I’m sure my eyes were rolling about wildly as she started moving out of the drive. My foot was already pressing down on the floorboard on my side, wishing madly I had a set of brakes over there. If there had been, we would not have moved one inch.
As she moved out into the road, my poor heart started doing palpitations, I was trying so hard to be calm and collected so that she would be relaxed and focused on her driving. However, my hands would fly up to hold the dashboard or the handle above the seat. My foot automatically slammed onto the floor looking for the brakes. She’d come up behind a car or to a stop light and I would press back in the seat with both hands clutching the door and console on either side of me.
“You’re coming up too fast. Start braking please.” I’d say.
“Mom, relax. I’m stopping already.”
“You need to give yourself more time to brake.”
“I know, mom. I’m fine. See, I can do this.”
“Don’t get cocky. Cocky drivers always get into trouble.”
“Sheesh, mom. Relax already would you?”
I knew she was doing fine. She was being responsible and careful. She listened to me and did what I asked of her. It’s just the feeling of being out of control and having a fifteen year old manipulating so many thousand pounds of steel.
This went on for a long while, every time we’d go out and she asked to drive, my mind and body would automatically go into that fight or flight mode. The adrenaline would start pumping and my nerves started jangling. I never realized how much I liked to be in control of a vehicle and just how helpless I could feel sitting over there with a newbie driver.
She’s actually a good driver. It wasn’t that she gave me reason to be so panicky every time we went out. It was simply my own response to teaching or being responsible for a young, new driver. I know now that I could never be a driving instructor. I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress. Today, she does a lot of the driving and I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can check my phone and send text messages without feeling I have to have eyes on the road and her every second. I still press down on the floorboard trying to brake when we come up behind cars or to a light, and she knows it. I think she takes some small delight in the fact that I get so jittery over this. That’s okay… one day, she will be in my shoes and I’ll be in the back seat laughing at her. No, let’s correct that – I’ll be at HOME laughing at her. I don’t think I want to go through this again with a grandchild. I’ll just let her handle it while I’m in a safe, comfortable place.