The third time is not a charm, apparently. Teaching a teenager how to drive is not only not charming, it can be terrifying. I’m not sure why I’m feeling rattled – because it’s a boy this time? Because I’m getting too old for this? Because my good luck is bound to run out? But I’m back praying in the passenger seat, clutching the door handle and braking an imaginary pedal.
Raising three kids, I noticed tendencies of linear vs. spatial learning, but it was truly revealed behind the wheel, and not without a few surprises. The daydreamer zipped into a parking space like she’d done it all her life, and the methodical one can’t drive a straight line. I’d forgotten how tricky it is to know exactly where to “stop” at a stop sign. Other nuances include braking in traffic, finding the safe distance between cars and, that dastardly driving derring-do, changing lanes. For every one of my teens’ lane changes, tentative and tenuous, I earned another gray hair. Forever ingrained in my mind was the realization one day that the 18-wheeler barreling down the interstate at 70 mph on my right was physically closer to me than the white-knuckled teen at the wheel on my left. Lord, help me.
I’ve played many roles teaching the teens to drive, all of which have been rewarded with the ubiquitous eye roll.
- Yogi: “Ease off the brake gently. Accelerate smoothly. Only go as fast as you feel comfortable going. Maybe we don’t go too fast today.”
- Teacher: “When you come to a stop, look left, then right, then left again. And then you can proceed. Right, left, then right again. Got it? Now, what do you do when you come to a stop?”
- Lawyer: “But did you in fact put your blinker on before you made that turn?”
- Dentist: “Relax and open wide – look at that space in front! You’re too close to the car ahead.”
- Psychologist: “And how did it make you feel when that car almost hit us?”
- Dog trainer: “Stop! Stay. Now go.”
- Philosopher: “When does yield mean stop and when does it mean go? Discuss.”
- Priest: “Oh my God, watch out!”
Truth be told, there is a charm to teaching three teens how to drive, eye rolls notwithstanding. I see it in the shy smile and budding confidence when my admonitions start to fade away. I feel it in my hand when I stop holding on for dear life. I hear it in their eager “Sure, I’ll drive you around for your interminable errands.” The art of parking, the timing in turning, the freedom of going – they finally do get it. Or maybe the charm comes when I no longer hold my breath every time they drive away. Oh right, that’s actually called prayer.