Saturday, October 24, 2009


My oldest son has just begun driving, and when I tell people this, I think this image forms:

For some reason, I am really relaxed about this, and I am not a relaxed mom. I still carry BandAids and Neosporin, and have since my oldest began crawling. I don't let them "chillax" at a house if I don't know the parents - and sometimes they can't go because I DO know the parenats. I still count their vegetable, fruit and calcium servings. But about driving, I am relaxed. Of course, that's probably because Christopher is a reasonable kid. (Come back when Philip starts and people will be sending me Xanax...)

His DAD grabbed the emergency brake the other day. His father is a wreck about this (pardon the pun). That's probably because his father has no history of driving with Christopher.

I remember when he was about five, we went out to the playground after he finally shook a bad cold. On the way home, he asked to sit in my lap and "drive" - we did this pretty often. Because he had been so sick, when he asked to drive in the seat by himself, I hesitated, but let him - only up our long, flat driveway. He was ecstatic. He was doing a great job. Only I had forgotten to teach him a really, really important aspect of driving. When you sit on mom's lap and steer, you don't get too much about the pedals below. So as he drove up and got close to the garage door, I said, "Brake, Christopher. It's time to brake."

He looked at me with his pre-kindergarten face. "What's that?"

I reached over and pulled the emergency brake literally one second before we would have crashed into the garage door.

I think that was the dumbest move I've made with kids in my life. Or at least with Christopher.

I think I'm relaxed about it because I learned to drive in New York City where stop signs are pauses and speed limits are viewed more as recommendations, not laws. Plus, he's the kind of kid who when I call him while I'm driving reminds me, "Mom, it's illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone."

It's such a strange rite of passage to see your kid driving past the house. And like a lot of milestones they pass, it's a rite of passage for the parents,too.


Elizabeth Bradley said...

I have two daughters, the oldest one is intense, a little wild, and a bit hysterical at times. The youngest is calm and measured.

Teaching the oldest to drive was a hair-raising experience, to put it mildly. The Husband had the brilliant idea to take her down to the deserted high school one Sunday morning to practice and she nearly drove through a plate glass window.
she failed her driver's test three times, despite having attended driver's education. Surprisingly, now she's in her twenties and not a bad driver at all.

The younger daughter took to driving as if she'd been doing it all her life. She passed all her tests with flying colors.

Bish Denham said...

I've never taught anyone to drive. My own experience was exciting. My mother took me out for my first lessons in an old jeep that jumped out of second gear and barely had reverse. In mastering that hunk of junk, mastering the steep dirt roads of St. John was a snap.

Deidra said...

It's certainly a good thing that you aren't scared of your son's driving! I'm guessing, because I would feel this way if it were me, that he takes your confidence in his abilities as support as well, which is invaluable. Much better to have an aware, confident youngster than a timid one when it comes to driving. We don't want him stopping nervously in the middle of the road, do we? :)

Hardygirl said...

I can't wait until my oldest gets her license. She's responsible and can actually help me with some of this carting around that I do all day.

But, her little sister . . . watch out!


Anne Spollen said...

Lol, Elizabeth, the plate glass. Kids personalities really emerge behind the wheel. Some are easy; others are gut wrenching.

Bish, I think that might be called trial by fire. Maybe it's better to learn on a jeep like that. Like you said, it makes the whole thing seem easier.

Welcome, Deidra! I just know Christopher is not a risk taker which makes me calm. Well, calmer.

Yeah, sf, it's that younger one that you always have to watch out for. They say it's because we "relax" more with subsequent children and our first ones are more anxious. I think it's a crap shoot of genetics, but what do I know?

Mary Witzl said...

Oh God: the only reason I'm not completely stressed out about this myself is because our Eldest was starting to learn how to drive, then decided to put it off so she could go to Japan for the summer. In a way, I'm relieved. I just wish there was some way to tell when a kid has developed a fully formed sense of their own mortality. That's when they ought to start learning.

Anne Spollen said...

I think 35 is probably a good age to start, Mary. I remember deciding to see if I could do figure 8's on a sheet of ice when I was about 17. (And no, my kids don't go near blogs. They're for "old people")

adrienne said...

It's great you can be calm about it. Here the age to get a license is sixteen - I think it's eighteen there? My daughter is in the driving around the parking lot stage, and it seems way too early to be dealing with this!

Anne Spollen said...

They can drive without an adult at 17 here, but I've been really s-l-o-w about filling out paper work, submitting checks, that sort of thing. He could have been doing this about six months ago -- maybe that's why I'm calm.

Come back when Philip starts -- I'll be putting cones up all around town.

K.C. Shaw said...

I didn't get my license until I was 21, mostly thanks to my brother (and partly because I just wasn't all that interested in learning). My brother is younger than me but learned to drive at 16, when I was still not quite 18. By the time he was safely licensed, my mom was too shaken to teach me. I don't blame her, in retrospect.

Good luck! Sounds like he's doing great.

Glynis said...

All 3 of mine are good drivers, our son is a city zipper, my eldest girl drives all over the country (UK) and our youngest girl is a country plodder.
It was great when my boy learnt as he wanted to take the girls to ballet etc. I got some 'me' time.

Nora MacFarlane said...

My son will be 20 in December. I still haven't ridden in the car with him...