Well, it happened. A milestone in our family. Our first teen driver. I'm not talking about the permit to learn to drive...I'm talking about the honest to goodness make our insurance rates go up real driver's license. I was thinking now that it's official, I'd go ahead and give those of you that will be sitting in the passenger seat while your teen learns to drive a few tips. No need to thank me. You'll be in that hot seat soon enough.
I don't know how your roads are, but in our neck of the county our roads are quite narrow, ours in particular being one lane. After the narrow, there's a small strip of grass you're lucky your tire might fit on, and then ditch...and not one of those gradual sloping ones either...I'm talking about one that's Grand Canyon steep. The first day in February that Eldest got his permit he went home, happy to have passed the written test for it, and that was that. Then when the novelty of it wore off I heard the dreaded, "Mom, will you take me out driving?" In my most confident of voices I said, "Why sure, we'll go right after school." Of course, my inner-Sharon was actually cringing in horror, white as a sheet, and screaming, "AHHHHH, go ask your dad to do it!"
When the time came, with the patience of an angel, I explained to Eldest how to adjust the mirrors, shift the gears, and use the pedals. Then off we went, me giving a teenager verbal guidance, which I saw go in one ear and out the other. Eldest seemed quite confident as he swayed from one side of our road to the other, taking those turns too wide and too quick. Now here's tip #1: When you are sitting there in the passenger seat...white knuckle gripping the arm rest to the point of strangulation...trying to casually lean to the left in hopes of getting your vehicle to do the same won't work. You are at the mercy of your teenage driver now. I vaguely remember saying, "Eldest, going in the ditch would be really really bad...like tow truck bad," but it's kind of hazy due to the grip I had on the arm rest.
Now, as your teenager is getting his driving wings, swaying less and building confidence, his speed will increase. With that increase in speed comes tip #2 - as you continue to white knuckle the arm rest, trying to nonchalantly push down on an imaginary break peddle with your right foot, that will not work, either. Again, you are at the mercy of your learning to drive teenager. It's like you've entered a mix between the Twilight Zone and Elmo's World...And. You. Can't. Get. Out.
I'll never forget asking Eldest to drive me home from the movie theater one night. We learned real quick that sitting in the passenger seat for years, while paying no attention to the surroundings as a parent drives home, is not the same as sitting in the driver's seat for the first time, surrounded by the lights of shops, traffic lights, and other vehicles. Once we realized the van's lights weren't on, Eldest found the light switch to get them on, and another driver stopped honking wildly at us, we decided dead-of-night driving while there is no traffic on the road to contend with was our best option. And here comes tip #3 - take your teenage driver out at night to a business/shopping area while there is minimal to no traffic so they can practice driving up and down the road. That way when you are white knuckling the arm rest, leaning to the left, and pushing on your imaginary break peddle, your teen won't see you doing it as easily...and freaking out other drivers will be cut to a minimum. Also, while they're practicing parking in a dark and virtually vacant parking lot, and the police ask what you're doing, they'll agree that it's a good idea...especially when you re-hash the first nighttime driving experience. I still have nightmares over that red light incident.
The good thing about all of the driving we did together, along with the class Eldest took through Neff's Driving School, is that he has become a pretty good teenage driver. All in all he must be doing a pretty good job because when he did his maneuverability and driving tests with the police officer yesterday he was given a genuine 100% no points taken off score. It was a happy day at the BMV!
So, there you have it, folks. Eldest...our first teenage driver. I learned a lot while sitting there in the passenger seat, like how to pry my fingers from the arm rest and to keep swallowing quickly so I don't throw up my popcorn onto the windshield. Why, I even have a glorious two years of recovery time before I begin the wild ride of teaching another teen to drive. If I make it through what I am afraid will be a harrowing experience with Kid, I'll move into a bit of downtime before it's my final journey into the Twilight Driving Zone - Young'un style. Smiling & Waving, Sharon