By Amy Zimmerman

50-SOMETHING MOMS BLOG
How can this be? Once again, I find myself hearing that terrifying question every mother of a teen dreads, “Mom, can we go driving?” This time it was asked by my “baby.” OK, so he is 16 and the state of New York deems him of legal age to have a learner’s permit, but it is still hard to reconcile.
The first time around I took pride in my level of calm. I was the chosen parent to drive with. Let’s just say when my first-born drove with her dad, there was the traditional door slam and tears after each driving session. In his defense he has honed his patience and my son agrees he is much better now. Perhaps it was a father/daughter thing.
For those who do not have children of driving age, it is hard to imagine your kids behind the wheel of a car. Actually, even if they are of age it is hard to deal with.
We spend their formative years doing everything we can to keep them safe. Hot, don’t touch! Slowly. Chew before you swallow. Hold my hand. Don’t hit. Play nice. Eat your veggies (this one never worked in my house). Then they reach driving age and we put them behind the wheel of a machine that weighs a few thousand pounds and all that safety control flies out the driver’s side window.
The key to surviving a teen driver is to remain rational. This is not an easy task when they first begin. They seem to be missing the correct depth perception gene that helps judge distance on the right side of the car; the exact side that you are sitting on! It is difficult not to feel as if the passenger side of the car is at constant risk of smashing into all sorts of stationary objects. Because, quite frankly, it is!
Having done this once before I know what to expect. There is a reflex to keep slamming on a nonexistent brake on the passenger side while trying to calmly use the words, “I think you should slow down, honey.” When I would say this to my daughter, she usually heard the words, “You are driving like a maniac” and became a bit defensive. Many parents will also develop an annoying habit of holding on to the dashboard for dear life. This is not advisable as it makes the teen driver feel as incompetent as they truly are. We need to remember the ever important self-esteem.
My son is a calm, cool, self-confident teen. He is responsible, hard-working and an all-around great kid. But who am I kidding? Until he has some hours under his belt every driving excursion is going to be a relatively stressful one. Not to mention the weeks following his receipt of a full license when he pulls out of the driveway without me.
As my husband always says, “Hey, it’s all part of growing up.”


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