Teaching My Teen to Drive: Not as Much Fun as it Sounds by Cindy Haney
Do you remember the first time you got behind the steering wheel of a car? For some of us, it was the scariest time of our lives, for others the most exciting. Somehow we lived through it all, and now we hardly ever think about those early days of driving.
Well, I’ve been thinking about those days a lot recently. I’ve also been thinking about life and death, too, and whether or not I’m going to survive the paralyzing fear of handing the keys over to my daughter. Not to mention the paralyzing fear of paralysis if we hit a tree or something. I plan to wear football pads and a helmet and maintain a death grip on the door handle, just in case I need to suddenly jump out and save myself.
Amanda, 17, is learning to drive right now. It’s one of those necessary life skills, but I can’t help but fear this particular skill. I should have signed her up last year but I kept putting it off (maybe until she’s 30?) and now she’s lagging behind all of her friends in the driving department. Partly, it’s because of my irrational fears (what if she texts while eating a peanut butter sandwich while painting her toenails while driving?) and partly because she’s pretty apathetic about the whole thing. If you asked her last year if she wanted to do some driving practice, she’d just shrug her shoulders and say “Meh.” This really baffles me. How can you care so little about learning to drive?
When I was sixteen, I couldn’t WAIT to get my license and speed off into Independence-Land. I wanted to ditch my parents, pile all of the friends I could find into my car and go to all the “cool places” that the “Populars” hung out at, like McDonald’s on the Strip (hey, it was a small town). My dream car was a navy blue convertible Camaro sports car. Notice I said “dream”. In reality, I learned to drive in my mother’s 1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout Station Wagon, which was – and I am NOT making this up – a lovely shade of puke-colored lime green. (See photo above.) It looked just like a bug. But not the cool Volkswagen Beetle variety, no, NO! But more like an oversized squashed grasshopper.
It was so mortifyingly embarrassing to drive that momwagon Hornet that I used to hunker way down in the driver’s seat, you know - Justin Bieber-style, when I pulled into the school parking lot and then I’d pray that no one knew it was me driving that thing. I’m pretty sure this was the reason I didn’t have any friends. This was, of course, way before the days of big-ass SUVs, but that thing could still guzzle a small Middle Eastern country’s entire supply of oil just to back out of the driveway. But no one cared about that crap back then. Hell, gas was dirt-cheap and plentiful and we had other things to worry about. Such as, “Does this Michael Jackson military jacket look good with my parachute pants and my spiral perm?”
I guess my Dad must’ve felt sorry for me or maybe my Mom got tired of all my gum wrappers, AquaNet hairspray and Prince cassette tapes littering up her car. So eventually he bought me my first (used) car. And when I say “used” I mean, battered, beat-up and completely worn out — but only on the inside. But on the outside, MAN, it was so cool, so who cares if it runs, right? That 1979 Dodge Omni was sporty-looking (it had LOUVERS on the back window, for God’s sake) and that was all that mattered to a 17-year-old. Oh, and it also mattered that it got me to the mall so I could chase guys. Here’s exactly what it looked like:
JEALOUS? Never mind that on the inside it was a total piece of shit. I can’t even count the number of times that sporty little junk heap left me stranded on the side of the freeway. And this was way before the days of cell phones, people. Back in those days, you just waited for some Good Samaritan to come by and give you a lift to a nearby gas station. I can’t believe I never got raped or mutilated. I’m just lucky like that, I guess. I even found this Auto Legend listed in a web article asking “What was the WORST car you ever had?” Hahaha! I told you it was bad. That old Dodge will live on in infamy as the stuff of family legend. It became the measuring stick for worst-case scenario cars. Such as, “Hey, that car doesn’t even have an engine and the brakes are completely rusted out, and oh by the way, there’s a couple of dead bodies in the trunk, but it’s way better than a Dodge Omni!”
So speaking of embarrassing cars, my daughter will soon have all the makings of her own “family legend”. You know that saying “what goes around comes around”? Yep, well, it’s a-coming back around. Amanda will soon inherit her grandfather’s 1989 powder blue Toyota Corolla. Awh yeah, ‘cuz what teenager doesn’t want to drive around in her grandfather’s hand-me-down clunker, AMIRIGHT? Hey, seriously, it’s a great low-mileage car, believe it or not, and it has had hardly any problems even in it’s old age. And the best part is that it’s “payment-free”. At least, that’s how I sold the idea to her. Her only comment was:
“Wow. Imagine my friends’ disappointment as I pull into their driveway to show them my ‘new car’.”
This is her New Old Car:
My husband and I can’t help but laugh our butts off. This is very funny. It should make for some great stories to tell her daughters someday, right? She may not see the humor right now, but someday she will. You see, she lives in an affluent neighborhood where most of her friends are driving new, or almost new cars. Our family is an island of semi-poverty surrounded by an ocean of wealth. But you know what? This is a very important life lesson which goes beyond just learning how to drive. It’s a lesson about learning to appreciate what you have, and working hard to earn what you want.
If she wants a better car then I expect her to work hard to get it. Shiny new sports cars shouldn’t be handed on a silver platter to young, inexperienced teenagers. They don’t appreciate it anyway. It’s just wrong and it doesn’t teach them a thing about working for what you want. I certainly didn’t get a shiny new car and neither should she. Especially since dings and fender-benders are most certainly a possibility. But we’ll always be there to help her out and to encourage her to earn and appreciate all the big rewards in life. I know she’ll be a better person because of it.
Now if I can just survive the required 30 hours of parent-taught driving without losing my mind or my limbs, it will all be worth it in the end.*
*Rebuttal written by Amanda:
First of all, I’ve been busy this last year. I haven’t had time to do driving lessons since I go to school, have homework, have a part-time job that takes up my entire weekend, take voice lessons, attend choir functions, go on dates and other social outings and spend hours and hours texting and Spotifying. Second of all, mom, YOU don’t teach me how to drive at all because you are too Chicken. Dad is doing all the teaching because he doesn’t freak out (okay, he does a little bit). So there.