Actually, I am teaching two teens. From scratch. On a stick-shift. …Sigh.
Progress is slow, but definitely being made.
Seven years ago, my first daughter had the benefit of a school-sponsored driver’s education class. Ava (Abby) took that several-week-long class and learned the basics of driving an automatic transmission. Then, once she passed that, Mother took over and made sure she mastered the extra skills I feel a young driver should know. We spent many an afternoon in a church parking lot driving, cornering, parallel parking, and learning the finer points of reverse. She also took a class sponsored by my auto insurance company that helps young drivers and reduces insurance costs.
She eventually passed all these lessons with flying colors. And while she didn’t drive often, I was confident in her skills and her knowledge of safety. She didn’t use the cell phone or iPod while driving; she knew to keep her speed appropriate; she was a “good,” if inexperienced driver.
Nevertheless, she died in a single-car rollover accident three years later. We will never know what caused that crash, but whatever it was, it killed an 18-year-old “good” driver.
So here I am, back behind the wheel with two more lovely young ladies. This time, there is no school-sponsored driver’s ed. class – just me. Also, this time, we are struggling with a standard transmission, which of course makes the learning much slower and more frustrating for both students and teacher. But as I said, my girls are learning and will undoubtedly master this skill with time and practice.
However, I frequently find myself wondering: How can I put two more wonderful, loved young ladies into a “death machine on wheels”? How can I ever give them the keys and say, “See you later,” as I did to Ava three years ago, fully expecting to have lunch with her that day and never dreaming of the horror to come?
Clearly, I struggle with it.
But in the end, I know I must make sure they learn to drive. What kind of parent would I be if I withheld this basic knowledge and skill from my teenagers because of my fears? Young people who don’t know how to drive are literally handicapped. Unless they live in New York City or similar, non-drivers are severely limited in what they can do, where they can go, what jobs they take, etc. I would be doing my daughters a severe disservice if I were to refuse to teach them to drive. I take my parenting duties quite seriously. It is my job to make sure their wings are strong enough to support them when they decide to “fly” and leave the nest.
So we climb into the little 1997 Tacoma pickup and lurch up and down the backstreets of Wickenburg. We’ve taken out one mailbox and had a near-miss with a gas pump, but we’re making progress.
Sooner or later they will pass “Mother’s Driver’s Ed.” Then I plan to pay the not-inexpensive fees for them to attend a “real” driving school in Phoenix. They will certainly complete the insurance-sponsored course as well. Eventually, I will hand over the keys, reluctantly saying, “See you later.”
I will watch their wings unfold…. And I will pray.