You never learn to swear until you teach your teenager to drive.
One of the truest tweets I’ve ever tweeted.
When you’re growing up your kids, you look forward to the milestones they achieve as a sign of their development. You wait eagerly for that first smile, to feed them their first solids, to see their first steps. Then you wait to hear their first words, and see that first poop in the toilet. Then its the first playdate, the first drop off birthday party, the first day of Grade 1.
And so it goes.
And then, finally, you’re looking forward to the first driving lesson, which for any parent of teenagers, means the first day of the rest of your life (not as a taxi driver).
We were the same. Two years ago we waited with anticipation for our first, our baby girl, to turn 16. The day after her 15th birthday, I bought her the little book to start studying for her written test. (Actually, I bought her the practice tests book and had to go back and buy the real book). All we talked about was ‘Next year, you can drive yourself..’ and ‘Its gonna be great when you can pick your brother up for us..’
The first time I let my girl drive went like this. (And by the way, we were in a quiet suburban neighbourhood, with next to no other cars on the road)
‘Ok, so look to your left mirror, look in your rearview mirror, and pull out to the left.’
‘Which is the gas? How do I turn the wheel?’
Me, patiently, “Just like I told you, the gas is on the right, the brake is on the left. Just press lightly on the gas, and start turning the wheel the way you want to go.”
‘Oook….’ The car jumped and jerked, but started moving. And was dangerously close to a car parked on the side of the road.
‘Be careful of that car. Just turn the wheel slightly so you don’t take his window off.’ I worked hard to keep my voice moderate. She turned the wheel sharply and consequently laned temporarily on the wrong side of the road. She quickly corrected the car’s position by me reaching over and jerking the wheel.
‘Oh my god oh my god, what do I do now. There’s a STOP sign.’
‘Just start slowing at that tree there by pressing the brake lightly. Then, when you’re at the stop sign, you’ll be stopped.’
The car jerked to a violent stop almost on top of the sign. I envisioned my visits to the chiropractor, and calculated the cost of the heating pads and days lost from work. ‘Next time, you don’t need to jam on the brake. Just touch it lightly, and the car will stop. Now touch the gas, and let’s get going again.’
The car started moving, smoothly, this time. We both smiled, and my heart rate began to slow. I saw another Stop sign ahead. ‘Now, remember, start slowing at that tree there, and then come to a complete stop without
taking my head of my neck stopping abruptly.’ As we approached said tree, the cars slowed down. As we PASSED the Stop sign, we rolled smoothly through the intersection.
‘You have to STOP at stop signs!’ I tried to keep my voice moderate.
“I DID!!” She yelled back.
‘You did NOT stop at that stop sign. You rolled right through. You have to STOP. They will give me a TICKET. You could have crashed my car. My insurance just went back down from when I hit that garbage truck.’
‘Chill Mom, nothing happened. I’ll stop better next time. Look how AWESOME I’m driving.
I smiled. ‘Oh yes, honey. Just great.’ I try to be a very supportive mother at all times. ‘Keep your eyes on the road, ok. Don’t look at me when you talk to me.’
‘OMG there’s a car coming. What do I do?
‘Dear, that car’s on the other side of the road. Just keep doing what you’re doing. And you can speed up a little. The speed limit is 40 km/hr not 20 km/hr.’
Another Stop sign appeared ahead. Ok, at that Stop sign, after you actually stop, you’re going to turn left. So put your flicker on.’
‘I’m not turning left.’ Her hands tightened on the wheel.
‘Yes, you have to. It’s a dead end. You’ll just slow down a bit, turn the wheel to the left, and straighten it out, like this,’ I demonstrated with my hands holding my bottle of Valium like a steering wheel. ‘Then, when you’re straight again, you bring your speed back up, and keep going.’
‘NO. I am not turning left.’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘NO! No left turns. I don’t turn left. Its scary.’ She was sweating at this point, and her hands were gripping the wheel so hard, her knuckles turned red.
‘Listen, you’re going to have to turn left. It’s a dead end street. So, just do it. RIGHT NOW.’ Finally, I was forced to raise my voice.
‘Don’t yell at me.’ She looked like she was going to cry. ‘I’m turning…. ‘ And she stopped in the middle of the road.
‘See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’ And then, I said, as we opened our doors and switched seats so I could get us home, ‘Maybe we should wait until you have a driving lesson or two before we practice again.’
‘But…why? I was AMAZING!
That girl passed her driver’s test on the first try, shockingly, and seems to be too busy to drive her siblings around for us. Another dream dashed.
In other news, I have a second driver in the house now who confuses STOP with the phrase SLOW DOWN, but otherwise isn’t half bad of a driver.
And so it goes….