My eldest son is driving. A late bloomer, he got his license last year and then went off to college without a car. This translates into not enough driving experience to protect him and others on the crazy roads near my house. I wasn’t very concerned at first, because a trip to the grocery store, the frozen yogurt store, and those trips around the local neighborhood make for good practice. This summer however, he will work as an intern in a company that requires him to jump on the highway every single day. Although he is fairly confident in his driving abilities, his mom is a nervous wreck.
I’m nervous not because he’s not demonstrating good driving skills, in fact, he is. I’m nervous because only “experience” can truly teach you the crazy rules of the road. How do you protect or teach your child to avoid the crazy road rage driver? How do you teach him that sometimes there are jerks who won’t let you switch lanes, even when you are trying to get onto the highway? In a perfect world, driving is pretty straightforward, but there are numerous personalities behind those wheels. We share the road with nice drivers, angry drivers, late drivers, race-car drivers, inexperienced drivers and nervous drivers. My son must learn, as I did, to drive amongst them all.
So there I sit in the passenger seat, my heart beating just a little bit faster, the muscles in my neck aching from tension, my hands migrating from resting calmly on my lap to clenching, to hanging onto the armrest of the door. Oh I wish I could describe the physical changes that come over me while sitting in that passenger’s seat! I want to yell at the other drivers “BE NICE TO MY BABY!” but that would, perhaps, make him even more nervous than he already is.
So I do what any parent would do in this situation, I fake calmness and pretend to be as cool as a cucumber. He’s not fooled in the least. Yesterday we went through the toll booth and stopped behind a huge tractor trailer. It didn’t look like the truck met the height requirements. The toll attendant started wildly gesturing at us, telling us to BACK UP! I panicked! That is against the rules lady, I am with a new driver, can’t you stuff that truck through?! I started gesturing like a madwoman, telepathically yelling….”NEW DRIVER!” while she looked at me as if I was an idiot. My son glanced at me, looked in his rear view mirror and put the car in reverse. “I got this mom,” he said, as he very cautiously and expertly backed up (AGAINST THE RULES TOLL LADY) and drove into another lane.
It’s going to be OK I tell myself. He’s got this, but I don’t. Do you know what I have? I have perspective. My teen has learned that texting and driving is a big no no, but many people have not learned that. He is driving amongst those people. Driving is a mental exercise, and I am teaching him to be aware of his surroundings, to stay away from the bullies and to focus on his behavior and his own actions. Sounds familiar moms, doesn’t it? It’s what we teach our children about life in general. So if you are out and about on the road today, remember that you are sharing that road with our children, our new drivers. Cut them some slack. Help keep them safe.
I’m now going to go somewhere and hyperventilate.