It’s happening right now. I knew this day was coming. We prepared for it. Talked about it. Followed all the instructions. Made sure that we covered everything on the list. However, nothing could prepare me for the gravity of the actual pit in my stomach that is my current reality.
She just took the car…BY HERSELF!!!
We have entered into a new stage of parenting. To be honest, I’m glad I’m not alone. This time I’ve got friends and family and my Raising STRONG Girls tribe coming along for the ride. You all can comfort me and give me support as I share how truly terrifying it is to hand over the keys to my 16yo. She is not a bad driver, it’s just hard to accept that she can now do it legally.
I have a licensed driver in the house. … a licensed driver in the house. Maybe it will seem less terrifying if I keep saying it over and over again.
A New Look at Parenting
Remember leaving the hospital for the first time with that seven pound Butterball and asking yourself: “What the hell am I going to do now?” How about crying like a baby at preschool graduation? Beaming with pride at her first dance recital, basketball or soccer game thinking you have the next Misty Copeland or Mia Hamm in your house? How about wiping away her tears when she wasn’t included in the latest tween party that everyone was going to?
Mastering those moments of parenting are nothing compared to handing over the keys to a large, metal death trap on wheels to your first born!
Crazy Mom Comes Out for a Drive
My rational side thinks, she’s a good driver, she’s a rule follower, she won’t text and drive. She’s responsible. She can handle this. Crazy Mom says: “She’s easily distracted. She can’t remember one thing you tell her two minutes after you’ve said it. She didn’t remember to stop at the rotary stop sign.”
I tried really hard not let Crazy Mom out when she got her permit. I didn’t want to make her any more nervous. I remembered her telling me about her experience in the car with a Screamer who was trying to teach her daughter to drive. I didn’t want to be Screamer II.
I played it pretty cool until the infamous “Yield” incident. We were driving to meet friends for dinner. As we turned right off of the highway, she came to a Yield sign to merge onto another street. I spoke calmly as we were coming up on the sign and felt like she wasn’t going to slow down. I said, “yield.” As we inched a few feet closer I raised my voice slightly with, “YIELD.” When it became clear that she either wasn’t hearing me, or had gone temporarily insane, I gave one last attempt: “YIELD!!!!!!!!!!” To which she promptly replied, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!”
This experience made me think all parents need to have a tip sheet when they get in the car the first few times with their student driver.
5 Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive
#1: Make sure your new driver knows what the Yield sign means.
And, for that matter, make sure she knows what all the signs mean… beyond STOP and ONE WAY.
#2: Don’t yell at every little mistake she makes.
She is a teen. We know she is learning and that on a good day she is completely unfocused. Let her make some mistakes as long as the consequences aren’t dangerous. What is going to happen if she goes a couple miles over the speed limit? Keep Crazy Mom at bay. Instead, calmly tell her what the speed limit is and make sure she adjusts.
#3: Simon says: She WILL mirror YOUR actions.
If you are texting and driving, she will be too.
If you are talking on the phone, distracted while driving, she will be too.
If you are more concerned with the song on the radio than what the car next to you is doing, she will be too.
Teens don’t miss a thing when we do something wrong! Don’t let your mistakes become the thing she duplicates.
#4: Set boundaries and establish consequences.
Don’t expect your teen to read your mind. If you want her to put gas in the tank, tell her. Take her to the gas station and show her how to fill the tank. If she is supposed to text or call you when she arrives at her destination, make sure it happens. When she doesn’t, take away her next trip. She will quickly learn to communicate regularly!
#5: Trust that the preparation she has taken in drivers ed gives her a great foundation.
This one is the hardest. Remember that Butterball? Trust that she has listened to your guidance when it comes to the rules of the road, the rules of the car and the rules of the family.
And, above all: remember she’s a teen. She knows not what she does or doesn’t do — just that she needs to get home to watch Gossip Girl!
You can thank me later for saving your life when your new driver is at her first Yield sign. 😉