It sneaks up on you ya know. When you have little babies nobody ever warns you that one day....in the not so distant future....they're going to grow up and do adult things. Like driving! Last winter I realized just how fast it happens.
When I learned to drive, (I swear it feels like it was yesterday!) I took all three of my behind the wheel classes before my parents...ok my mom...would allow me to drive the family car. I remember them arguing about which vehicle I should drive, the suburban or the cadillac. Each had an argument for why I should drive the other's vehicle. At the time I thought it had to do with how difficult either one was to drive. Now I know better!
Fast forward to 2005, and my 16 year old son Tyler has just gotten his permit. Much to my surpise, things have changed! The first change is that now, when a kid takes behind the wheel, they have ONE session then come home with a list of things to practice BEFORE the next session! What? You want this kid, who's only been behind the wheel once in his entire life, to drive MY VAN? Not only that, but it comes with a little note like, "15 hours practice, then schedule you're next session." Oh....my....God! Do they not realize that 15 hour is a very long time?
Now, I have convinced myself that I am going to be the "cool mom" and let Tyler drive all the time. I can handle this. I am a grown up, have survived the military and everything. I should be able to handle a few hours of drive time with my son. I was soon going to come to the realization that teaching my child to drive was to be the scariest experience of my entire life! It out does Army basic training, Tear gas chambers and gas mask training. It outdoes childbirth even.
Our very first time went something like this:
My older son Noah (not yet a driver himself) was in the back seat. I calmly handed the min-van keys over to Tyler, noting that he was grinning so hard I thought he might actually hurt himself. He climbed behind the wheel, looking around for the shifter like he knows its there...somewhere. Calmly, and without a word, I reach over and touch the end of it with my fingertip. He giggles, "Oh yeah. It was in a different spot in the instructors car." I swallow hard, then double check to make sure my seatbelt is securely bucked. I look back to see that Noah is now sitting in the middle of the back seat, looking for something to hold onto.
I encourage Tyler to adjust the seat to fit his long legs, instead of it's current setting that fits my very short ones. He opts to leave it where it is, with his knees about 6 inches from his chest, leaving little room for the steering wheel. I remind him to adjust the mirrors to fit his line of vision, he opts to leave them where they are too. Then he reaches over and turns on the radio. I turn it off. Afterall, I need to concentrate here.
Now, we have an extremely steep driveway, with a 10 ft drop on what is now the driver's side. (Lets remeber that I, the mom, am on the passenger side of the car. This is NOT the place to be if you have control issues!) Picture a rollercoaster. As you come up the hill you cannot quite see over the peak to the other side. This is exactly how our driveway is. Funny I've never been afraid of this driveway before, but at this moment I have visions of us finding the edge and rolling down that hill. Tyler makes himself very tall in his seat to watch the nose of the van go up over the crest of the hill. By the way he's holding his breath I can tell he's scared to death, and then realize I'm holding my breath too!
Having survived the driveway (I only had to hold my breath a few seconds before it was over.) we pull onto the street and C-R-E-E-P up to the stop sign. This turn will put us on a busy highway with many blind entrances. Suddenly I want out of the car because I feel like I'm going to be sick. But I suck it up, say nothing, and hold on just a little tighter, hoping that he can't see my white knuckles on the door handle.
Out on the street, I realize how very narrow the lanes have become, especially since Tyler clearly has trouble staying in his! 55 miles per hour seems much like the Indy 500. But I don't really have to worry about it, cuz Tyler won't go more than 40. In my side mirror I notice the cars stacking up behind us and decide that when kid gets his permit, his parents should be given a "student driver" magnet for their car. (a few days later, on yet another practice session, I wrote in the dust on my back window "student driver, pray for the mom" but Tyler didn't think it was funny. Go figure.)
Well back to driving. I was trying not to say much too him, 'cuz I've heard that a distracted driver is a dangerous one, but there was a major intersection coming and I couldn't help myself. "Ok Tyler, now we're coming up to this stop sign. You can start to slow down now....Tyler...Slow DOWN now Tyler. Oh my God SLOW DOWN!!!! STOOOOP!!! How come you didn't slow DOWN when I told you too? Don't you know when the light is red, and the cars in front of you are stopped you have to stop too, and that takes TIME and DISTANCE???????"(ok, well yeah I was near a nervous breakdown, and I kid you not my chest started hurting with heart attack like symptoms.) I am pretty sure I heard Noah stifle a scream in the back seat. I looked back to see his expressionless face has gone white as snow.
We drive about another 2 miles and it starts sleeting. I also notice the traffic is picking up, as it's now peak rush hour. I make the executive decision that our little practice session is going to be cut short. I tell Tyler to pull into the next convenience store, and when we park (which took several tries to get the aim just right) I give him a dollar and tell him to go get a pop. When he comes back I'm sitting behind the wheel.
For the first time, I hear a 17 year old voice from the back seat, "Now I know why I don't want to drive."
There is no way we're going to have 15 hours of practice time before his next behind the wheel session. In fact, we're going to LIE!