Our first time in the parking lot, his shiny new driver’s permit in his pocket. He gets into the driver’s seat and says, “Now what?”
I show him where to put the key; how to put his foot on the break; when to turn the key.
“No. Your right foot goes on the break!” This is going to be a long morning.
“Mom, should I be able to see over the steering wheel?”
My son is short. We need to adjust all the settings so he can “see over the steering wheel.” I should have done that first. When I drive someone else’s car, the first thing I do is adjust the seat and the mirrors.
I’m starting to see that I should have prepared for this moment.
So I explain how to reposition the rearview mirror and the side mirrors. And I explain what part of the car you should be able to see through the mirrors.
We get into a bit of a groove in the parking lot. Accelerating. Breaking. I’m narrating the whole time: Use the right side mirror to see if there are any cars. Back up and look through the rearview mirror.
After a while, this first time driver is starting to look like he could one day be competent. And I am starting to return to a normal breathing pattern.
Until I let him drive home on the streets. It’s a one minute drive. One minute of heart palpitations and holding my breath. One terrifying minute.
My foot instinctively slams on the brake. My body twists to help the car veer away from the curb. I gasp (audibly) as the car takes a wide turn. My heart pounds.
I’d rather be anywhere than in the passenger seat with my 15-1/2-year-old.
Every minute riding “shotgun” is terrifying. I want to be a supportive parent and let my son know that he is doing a great job, but then this yelp escapes from my mouth. “Watch out,” I scream.
Then my son yells back, “What?” The tension is palpable.
In reality, the problem is not my son’s; he is doing a great job. The problem is mine.
I should not be teaching my son how to drive.
With each new driving session, I enter the car committed to a new sense of calm. Almost instantaneously, the calm turns to panic as I my body tenses and my mind thinks that I am going to die. I wonder to myself, “Who had the ingenious idea that parents should teach their children to drive?”
Please Help Me.