Do you ever have those moments in your life when you experience something that just causes you to be flooded with emotions? This has been happening a lot lately for me now that we have a teen driver in the house. It has been a blessing and a curse at times watching our young man develop the skills to be behind the wheel. I always told myself that I would be patient and be encouraging while I taught my kids to drive. I would not freak out. I would not panic. I wish I could say I kept those promises. Lord bless me, I tried. I really tried. Teaching D to drive was not at all like I thought it would be. It was no idyllic scene, but just a lot of “Jesus mary joseph use your brakes now!” Yes, I was channeling my grandmother.
Now, D hasn’t done anything like taking the mirror off while backing out of the garage, scraping the side of the car along the garage, backing into someone in a parking lot or got a speeding ticket. I’m sure those rites of passage will come with time, and we have to deal with them then. What I am writing about today is the nitty-gritty lets get out on the open road driving. Last week we were on the interstate which we drive on a daily basis in our city.
Before getting on the interstate, we had a little moment of “Red light you need to slow down…still going 40mph….there is still a red light…USE YOUR BRAKES…SLOW DOWN…BRAKES NOW!!” With a sigh and eye roll, my teen driver heavily stomped on the brakes causing the car to come to a screeching halt. I tried to take a deep breath and regroup as we made our way on the interstate ramp. I asked D, “Do you know what exit we need to get off ?” “Yes,” he says. I trust that he knows, but then I realize he is in the exit only lane. I waited for a second and then say “You need to get over, right?” Once again the car comes to a halt, but this time on the interstate while D tries to figure out what to do since both lanes are busy with cars and trucks whizzing by us. As I feel my blood pressure rising, I whisper through my teeth to avoid screaming “Don’t be afraid to use your blinker!!” It was a moment for Jesus to take the wheel.
That moment brought back my own OMG moment. I was fourteen, recently passed drivers ed, and was so happy to have my driver’s license. My parents said I could drive to town to get a few items from the grocery store. I was excited to be on my own even if I was headed to the grocery store just five miles away from home. Everything was fine on the way to town and through the grocery store. I remember on the way home, I had better hurry home as I was gone for awhile. As an inexperienced driver on gravel roads I should have slowed down, but no I kept speeding up. I hit one bump in the road, and I heard the groceries fall off the seat. My thought was Eeks! The eggs and bread. Why didn’t I just put the groceries on the floor to start with? I reach back while still driving thinking I could grab the bags. Within a blink of an eye, I drove down in the ditch because I was driving so fast, I made it right back out. I stopped the car, get out to pick up the groceries that were now a bit smashed but not broken. I surveyed the vehicle for any visible damage. Only a bunch of grass stuck to the bottom. The rest of the way home, I drove so slow trying to come up with a story to explain why the bottom of the car was full of grass if anyone should ask.
Thankfully, there was a break in the cars so D could pull back into traffic. We made it to where we were going. D handed me the keys saying, “If you keep freaking out, you drive!” Music to my ears after that ride, I just experienced. However, D wants to drive, and he wants to drive alone. We have had many conversations with him not only about safe driving practices but about the basics that he still needs to master. Like for example, judging the distance of the cars in front of him so he knows when to apply the brakes. Making the adjustments on the interstate to change lanes when encountering a slower moving vehicle. Using a blinker to signal your intentions of moving lanes or turning.
Much to the chagrin of our teen driver, we won’t let him take off to just drive until we feel that he is capable and confident to handle the car on his own out on the road. As a parent, I know that that is the responsible choice on our part. I remember a year ago when we first let D drive one-half mile down the road to the gas station. I was in the car with him. He drove 20 mph when the speed limit was 40mph. Cars zoomed by him going 45-50 mph, but he was careful and cautious not to exceed the 20mph. As nervous as I was that night going a half mile from home, I would be happy to see a little bit of that fear and caution return to my driver. I guess I need to be careful what I wish for, right?
It is a critical task, teaching teens how to be safe while driving on the roads. How else will our teens learn, but with time behind the wheel? Mistakes will happen. It is a learning experience for both the teen driver and the teacher. I hope that D will persevere and master the task so he can take the next step to independence. I will be a better teacher by trying to be calm and not freak out! We will get there. For all the parents about to embark on teen driving, you know your kid best, persevere through the ups and downs and stops on the interstate, because as you know, it is all a part of the journey.
All my best to you,