Random Musings: The learner driver

My eldest child is learning to drive. She has been taking weekly lessons with an instructor for a little over six months, practising her skills in between by driving my little car. Sitting with her while she drives terrifies me and she knows it. I console myself with the thought that when she sits her practical test she will likely be nervous. Driving under my supervision gives her practice at driving under pressure.

Her lessons are expensive. I do not begrudge the instructor his fee but the longer it takes my daughter to pass her test the more the costs mount up. Encouraging her to practice as much as possible therefore makes sense but for her to practice either my husband or I must be in the car. While he is at work I must take my turn.

In recent weeks our weather has turned cold and wet so my boys have been less inclined to cycle to and from school. Bus fares have increased markedly so I decided that it would be a win win situation if my daughter drove everyone in each morning. This decision is proving to be a challenge to my well-being.

Automatic transmission cars are becoming more popular but most cars in this country still have manual gear shifts. Pulling out of busy junctions into rush hour traffic is not a good time to stall the engine; I try to stay silent as Daughter restarts the car and pulls away in a screech of spray. Changing gears whilst navigating the busy roundabouts en route requires concentration; I try not to flinch as the car veers worryingly close to kerbs as she accelerates away from each intersection.

I am not a particularly skilled driver and I recognise that I am a nervous passenger; my husband’s driving regularly causes me concern. He seems to take it as a personal slight if a car pulls in front of him, his irritation obvious in his demeanour and language. He will overtake furiously and then coast along, his mind focused on fuel economy. The irony of this variation in style is apparently lost on him. He chooses routes on distance rather than navigational ease. He and his dad will discuss at length alternative, potentially faster routes with the eagerness of alchemists. I suspect that my slow and steady driving along the best maintained roads irritates him as much as his driving decisions can irritate me.

This is all about trust and control yet with driving the biggest risk comes from others. My daughter will benefit from being able to drive but it is hard to put aside thoughts of the road traffic accidents that so regularly cause delays near our home. When my husband is late back from work that is where my imagination takes me.

I drive as little as possible, preferring to cycle, walk and use the trains. Our rural location, inclement weather and patchy public transport require me to use my car more than I would wish. Friends tell me that my real worries will start when my daughter passes her driving test and goes out on these roads alone.

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They used to just drive me to distraction

Perfection Pending

 This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending.

Over the years my kids have fallen out of swings, trees, down steep slopes, over fences, off their bikes and from horses. They have banged their heads, suffered greenstick fractures and sported the cuts and bruises inevitable when allowed to run and climb and play in the parks, fields and woodland around our home.

Of course I worried about them, schooled them on avoiding risk, taking care, on not playing alone, not straying too far from home. I recognised that they needed to learn for themselves but tried to ensure that they did so in as safe an environment as was practical whilst granting them the freedom to explore, stretch themselves and grow. Looking back on their childhood experiences, that they survived is as much down to luck as judgement. The potential for accidents is everywhere, including in the home.

To all you young moms out there, frantically trying to stop your kids eating dirt, banging their heads when they fall, running in front of traffic, falling in a river or pond; I have been there and I empathise. The world can seem so full of danger when you are responsible for a little person intent on learning for themselves, who seems to consider mom to be nothing more than a spoilsport when she says no.

Do you look at me with my teenage kids and dream about how much easier it must get when a full nights sleep is to be expected and those little people can go to and from school on their own? It does get easier, but the potential dangers just seem to get worse. Oh my.

My children have always wanted to drive. Be it push alongs, pedal cars or go-karts, if it had wheels they wanted to ride. Add a motor and they were in heaven.

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Yesterday my daughter had her first driving lesson in a much bigger car. A ton of metal that she claims to have driven at up to 50mph. Apparently her driving instructor only had to use the dual controls twice. No casualties were reported.

I knew that this day was approaching, and that this would be the start of a process that I will have to cope with for some years to come. Elder son, happily driving with his sister in the picture above, turns seventeen next year; younger son just a couple of years later. In a few weeks time, when she has learned the basics, I am going to have to let my daughter drive my car, with me in the passenger seat, in order to allow her to practice her newly learned skills. This must be the ultimate teenagers revenge; I will not have the benefit of an instructor’s dual controls.

I guess that, as with any other milestone, I will simply get used to it. The first time my daughter used a local bus by herself, the first time she took a train to the city, the first time she made a complicated journey that required multiple changes, I was worrying every step of the way, whereas now I barely give it a thought. I know that she will benefit from learning to drive a car, but oh my is it a challenge to let her loose on those dangerous roads.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the sleepless nights, the constant vigilance and the inexplicable tantrums of their early childhood, but it can be a challenge to let go of those little hands that I held tight and safe for so long. In the end it is a matter of trust, of hoping that my children have absorbed enough of the lessons taught to act carefully and sensibly whatever temptations are put in their way.

It seems that we never stop parenting our children, we must just learn to do so in a more quiet and unobtrusive way. If teenagers suspect what we are up to, that there is a risk that we might interfere in their chaotic lives? Believe me, those tantrums can return…