I remember pulling out of the DMV when I got my driver’s license in Pennsylvania and realizing that I had no idea how to drive. This was in the 80s, before anybody thought about graduated licenses. Your only training was the few hours you had behind the wheel at Driver’s Ed and maybe a few hours with your parents if you were lucky.
Somehow, I did learn how to drive on my own. But it wasn’t pretty.
Today, we would never let a teenager with just six hours behind the wheel get a license and hit the road. The permitting process requires them to drive 60 hours with a licensed driver in the passenger seat during the year before they get their licenses. The person riding shotgun is generally the parent. In the case of my youngest daughter, it’s usually me.
Not unlike childbirth, I had forgotten the white-knuckle-dashboard-grabbing anxious feeling of riding with a new driver.
“Stay in between the lines!”
“Don’t hit the curb!”
“There’s no law that says you have to turn right on red!”
“Commit to the left turn when you’re yielding!”
These phrases pretty much sum up our daily morning drive. Suddenly, the road is a dangerous battlefield when I’m riding with my daughter full of texting, distracted drivers who cut her off in traffic, tailgate her, beep the horn, and sometimes make nasty hand gestures because she is driving slowly and hesitating.
On one hand, I am scared to death. But on the other hand, I realize the only way to learn how to drive is to drive. I could take it to a parking lot, but she needs to learn how to navigate traffic. We figured it out when we were growing up, but the big difference is that there was nowhere near the amount of traffic there is today. In fact, the traffic has increased dramatically since my older daughter learned how to drive four years ago.
I know someday there will be a moment where neither she nor I will remember a time when she couldn’t drive. So, for now, like every other parenting obstacle, I will white-knuckle our rides together and hope for the best. After all, she learned how to ride a bike without training wheels after just a couple of trips over the handle bars, so how bad could this be?
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.