Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Several months ago I wrote...
Okay, Okay so nobody told me I would have to be a driving instructor when I was driving my daughters around and they were fighting in the back seat, or just asking me "are we there yet." Actually I thought that I had hung up all my hats recently, with empty nest just around the corner. Here in New England you can drive at sixteen. Now I do hope no one sixteen is reading this...but how this State can assume someone who is at the most confused age should be put behind the wheel is beyond me. When I was a girl, we were eighteen I believe, so at least we had already taken the SAT's. No, here we give them a license to drive, so that when they are worried about test scores, which college to attend, and what they are going to do with the rest of their lives, we give them a license to be on the road. In addition, introduce a cell phone, loud music and the "What If" principle and you have written a prescription for "fender bender." Personally, I think Canada has the right idea. When we lived there they had a wonderful five year graduated licensing system in place, so it is a bit like training wheels. Teens are allowed to drive only on certain roads, at certain times, and as they prove themselves with good driving records are allowed to go to the next level of driving privileges over a period of five years.
Well, now after I thought I had successfully accomplished teaching my daughter Sarah to drive, submitting the insurance claim, visiting all the colleges, going through the waiting for school acceptances, submitting another insurance claim, moving my daughter to college, the cycle begins again. My daughter, Ashley is learning to drive. Now Ashley is enrolled in driver's education just like my daughter Sarah was, but here's the twist. The driving lessons are spread out over a six-month period, but we, as parents, are supposed to be responsible for most of their driving hours. Did anyone tell the State that teenage daughters do not listen to their mothers about anything? No less, when you say STOPPPPPPPPPPPPP...and they don't, because they are sixteen.
Ashley is No Chicken
Sixteen is that magical age when they believe that their once upon a time star, idol, mother knows best, mom, put a band aid on my cut, good old mom is an idiot. So they think, until they have their own children, when I guess we become smart again. I think that's how it works, but anyway...here I am again in that chapter of having a sixteen year old daughter and teaching her to drive. Hmmmmmmmm, I have been driving since 1968, I have driven in Long Island, New York City, New Jersey, Hong Kong, Toronto and New England. But, I am not and never will be qualified to teach anyone to drive. I can drive on the right-hand side of the road, and the left-hand side of the road, but I do not like being a passenger on any side of the road with a sixteen year old behind the wheel.
I am thinking about starting a company that leases out cars designed with two steering wheels and two sets of brakes. Since we all as parents, have to live through the difficult task of teaching teens to drive, we should be given special "student driver" cars equipped with at least a second brake. I think it would be a very successful enterprise. Driving on the highway with a teen with only a learners permit, who is clueless to the "what ifs" and is determined to get as close to the car in front of them as possible, at 65 mph, because some car is behind them, can age a mother. I believe that if we could lease a car for the six months we need to teach these tykes to drive, we would have less accidents, better drivers, less stress, and certainly better parent health. At lease we should get one of those big light-up signs to put on top of our cars that say STUDENT DRIVER...instead of listening to other cars beep at the student driver because they are driving the speed limit. Which only causes them to drive faster and try to get closer to the car in front of them because there is a car behind them..... yikes.
The other idea I have thought about is why don't they come out with automobiles with great big rubber tires, (like bumper cars) around them for new drivers. This way as they were getting the hang of driving and learning all the "what ifs", we would all be allot safer. After all, when we taught them to ride a bike didn't we start with tricycle and then we gave them training wheels on the two wheelers. When we took the training wheels off, didn't we run alongside the bike as they were attempting to balance? Don't try this with a new teen driver or you could end up in the hospital. Not only would putting them in a marked bumper-car style vehicle be safer, we could spot them coming down the road, or behind us or in the rearview mirror. Wouldn't that be nice? Now we just give them a license and wave goodbye. It's scary to be on the road here, you see a very nice expensive SUV driving along and eeeeeeeeeeeek, it's a teenager. Or you feel assured you are safe on the highway driving 65 mph and you look over to the next lane and you see a brand new Mercedes with a teen behind the wheel on her cell phone, putting on makeup and drinking a coke. Am I the only one that thinks this is nuts, or am I becoming one of those old crotchety women who think "when I was your age you young whipper snapper."
My husband has the lovely excuse that he has to go to work, and by the time he arrives home it is close to dark. He occasionally takes my daughter out to drive over the weekend. But I am convinced Dad's are missing that "What If" principle that plagues all mothers. They are much better at this, I think. Now I have taken my older daughter to skid school after her second fender-bender, and it was great. The school is run by race car drivers and their sole purpose is to teach people how to handle your car under high-speed, avoiding accidents and of course skidding conditions. It was terrific, they did emphasize the fact that tailgating is always wrong and demonstrated the results of bad judgement. They also showed how backing up is forbidden if you want to avoid accidents. My daughter learned a great deal, and so did I. I thought you had to have your driver's license to attend this terrific class, I stand corrected, Dan stopped by to let me know that a student driver can take this class before they have their driver's license if they have at least 10 hrs of driving between parents and drivers ed . I did not learn about We Drive In Control skid school until after Sarah's troubles on the road. Now I must enroll Ashley.
“Watch the treeeeeeeeeeeeee, Ashley". That is all I said in that motherly tender screech you mutter when you don't want to fill out another insurance claim. Ashley said that if I weren’t yelling at her she would not have swerved. I think it was more about the fact that someone was coming down the road the other way and she feared she didn't have enough room. She's at that oh you know "Oh Ma Gawd I have to drive fast Mother there is someone behind me" stage. Not conducive for having a cup of coffee in the passenger seat, let me tell you. Now my nerves are frayed again, and I have only just begun. I see that I have not improved one bit since teaching Sarah to drive. Obviously the countless times I said and continue to say "don't drive too close to the car in front of you", never helped because her two accidents could have been avoided had she not tailgated. Six long months and I will be helping another daughter to drive. I wish we lived in the countryside instead of such a densely populated area. Rush hour is horrific and the streets here are so narrow barely one car can pass, no less two.
I have to go and pick my daughter up at school for her to beg to drive home. I hope to see you tomorrow. When they were both little and we would go for a car ride, they would say "Are we there yet, Are we there yet, are we there yet?" Now they are older and I find myself in the car with them behind the wheel, And me, with clinched fists on the arm rail, and feet planted to the floor pretending to have an imaginary brake on the passenger side. With Daughter #2 behind the wheel and saying to myself..."Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we there yet, Are we, watch out for that treeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Ta Dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...I made it, she made it and it is about ten months later. Ashley passed her driving test and has been borrowing my car on and off ever since. Isn't it amazing how we get through these milestones with our kids? I seem to only reflect on the cute little faces of my daughters afterwards and forget all about the work it took to get through each chapter.
Today she gets her new car. I still wish that there were training wheels on her car, or at least an extra portion of rubber around the car like they put on tug boats, sigh. She is so thrilled, her first car. I remember mine it was an aqua Ford Torino with black interior, bucket seats and a powerful engine. Don't tell Ashley but I used to love to take off when the light turned green to beat the guys next to me in their less than powerful car. Now another car will be in our driveway, and she will be driving herself to school every day. I can actually stay in my pj's and fuzzy slippers and blog earlier.
I know the thrill that Ashley will have when she drives away in her new car today. We leave for the dealership as soon as they call that the insurance paperwork has been completed. It seems like just yesterday she was sitting in the back of my car with her sippy cup and a great big smile. I pray that the Lord keep her safe.
The song for this post is Are We There Yet.