Oh Where is My Parenting Joy in this Moment?
There is one distinct and definite time where your parenting joy does not exist and that’s when you teach your how child to drive!
In every stage of your parenting journey we are offered advice and caution and at no stage do we heed it before we need it. I have some dim memory of my driving experience with my parents, probably dim because they say traumatic events aren’t easily remembered. I’m pretty sure that in my teenaged mind all the trauma was mine, from being yelled at. Seriously, parents can be unreasonably impatient at times, it’s not like it’s easy learning how to drive or anything!
Now I’m the mum, it’s my turn to ride shotgun and the proverbial shoe is on the other foot, or feet. Those feet, in fact, which have created the dents in the floor where I’ve been thrusting on non-existent brake pedals in the passenger foot well.
I have to say that I’ve been very restrained. I haven’t yelled or stormed off or refused to teach her how to drive. If you’re observant though, you’ll notice that when she’s driving, I have a bead of sweat on my brow, my knuckles are white, my eyes have a wide and concentrated quality and my mouth is pinched (like the emoji 😳).
Initially we were eager for her to learn how to drive. As parents of four kids who live 10kms from the nearest town, having another driver in the house would be useful for the errands to the supermarket or collections from extra murals and social events. Teenagers in particular seem to excel in social events and I’m definitely not one of those parents who is excited by the prospect of waiting up until silly o’clock to fetch them.
So we happily signed her up for lessons with our insurance company. However, what we failed to realise was that in between her lessons she’d need to practice. And even worse, that one of us would have to sit in the car with her while she practiced – a position that is potentially life threatening.
It’s a bit different to violin lessons in that regard.
The first time I thought she and I were going to die was when we entered a roundabout inches from an oncoming articulated lorry. Those things don’t stop easily and at this stage of her driving journey, stalling the car was her speciality. Happily the miraculous confluence of her keeping the car moving forward, combined with sufficient distance between our vehicles, ensured that we lived to see another day and another roundabout.
Now, I’m obviously not that stupid to have taken her out on the roads on her very first day. We began in abandoned car parks where we drove around in small circles, perfecting first gear, driving forwards and going into reverse. But eventually she graduated onto roads with other cars, and not only cars but also pesky pedestrians and cyclists. That’s when I realized that either a person walking their dog along a country lane is potentially going to be wiped out, or my daughter may be, as she swerves wildly around them into the oncoming traffic. I didn’t want to have to vote for either option.
Changing gears was another of her challenges in the early days. We’d advanced admirably from first to second gear but then got a bit stuck there, where we’d roar along like a buffalo in pain, while she calmly said she didn’t want to change up a gear as she could see a corner on the horizon.
And then there’s the stress of the aggro from other drivers on the road. Seemingly the large red L on our rear window is invisible to some and they feel compelled to hoot if she, in a moment of negotiating braking and changing down a gear, forgets to indicate left before turning into a minor road.
Now we are near the end of her twelve official driving lessons, she has improved admirably and is comfortable changing all the gears. She’s anticipating corners and not stalling (all that much). She’s become more confident, almost too confident in my opinion. I have prohibited her from scratching her nose while she’s driving, as her hands have to be on the wheel at all times. The one thing her instructor has told her, that I’ve been reminding her with unerring regularity, is that she needs to appear to be in control of the vehicle at all times. Waving to friends while mounting the pavement, for example, would be an immediate fail.
She is learning to approach stop signs with a little less enthusiasm, she’s figuring out how to tear her eyes from the road so that she can peak at the speedometer occasionally and to not treat the speed limit as a minimum or personal challenge.
She is nearly ready to take her test, she just needs to perfect her parallel parking, like leaving the greens to the side of the plate, we’re saving the worst for last. I am nearly ready to tell her that now she will be out there all by herself, driving on motorways and stuff like that, that she is driving a killing machine and I’m ok with this.
I do remember my Mum saying that it wasn’t an easy task teaching me to drive; she proved that by handing the job over to one of my patient older cousins. I’m relieved and grateful my job is almost done with my daughter.
But, OH crumbs, I’ve just remembered something else, she’s just the first child of four and I have three more to go! Due to a lack of nearby cousins, I could outsource the task to her, but then my next parenting challenge will be being stuck between the awful choice of going though this all again, or watching two of my precious children driving off into the sunset in that killing machine together.