My middle daughter started driver’s education class yesterday. We took the older car down to the school parking lot on Saturday to get a little bit of practical experience in, and may very well have terrorized a few walkers and runners who were cutting through the school grounds on their daily route. Our practice session might have been a little illegal, but I wanted her to get a few minutes behind the wheel before she had to do it in front of people she didn’t know.
“A little slower… no, ease on the brake… pretend those empty parking spaces have cars in them… oh jeez – you would have hit that one… okay, now you’re going better… go a little further before you turn that corner… stop up by that lamp-post and we’ll try it all again.” She ended up the session with a smile and not tears of frustration, so it was a small victory for the books.
I sat through the parent orientation at the beginning of the first class with only one ear tuned to the instructor. Looking around at the other parents it was obvious who the neophytes were; they were hanging on the teacher’s every word. I met the eye of another mom who gave me a small smile, as if to say, “yeah, here we are again.” She had been tempered through the fire of a previous child in the program, I could tell. When you’ve been through more than 50 hours driving with a teenager you either bend or break. I always have faith in my children’s abilities; it’s everybody else I worry about, so putting them out on the road and calmly sitting in the front seat next to them makes you consider buying stock in Clairol.
We teach our children many things as they grow up, some more consequential than others. We move from teaching them how to hold a crayon, to how to write their name, to how to write a college application essay. Talking, walking, and even eating all become efforts of education at different levels. There are parallels between teaching them to walk and teaching them to drive, though they are far apart as child-rearing milestones. It’s a gradual thing to learn, and takes some trial and error before it’s smooth. You watch with pride as they accomplish their goal. And once they learn, they will be one more circle away from you and the nest.