If you’re brave enough to teach your child to drive, understand one important thing. What you say, or what you think you say, is not what they hear.
For instance, on the first time heading out of our driveway, I was beaming with pride. My little girl had got her ‘L’ and there she was behind the wheel.
Of my car.
Behind the wheel.
The STEERING wheel!
One other thing to remember; on most models of cars the doors automatically lock once the car is in motion. Plan your escape early.
As we approached the end of the driveway I believe I said, quietly and calmly, “Just stop, look both ways and when it’s clear, enter traffic.”
Apparently, what my daughter heard was, “GO! NO! STOP! WAIT! OKAY, GUN IT!”
You can tell when you’re saying what you think and she’s hearing what you said. Just look at her. She’ll be sitting there with her foot pressed firmly to the brake. Both hands will be gripping the steering wheel, knuckles whitening. The beautiful smile you had always loved will look like she just sucked a lemon. Her eyes will bore into you like a butane torch on butter.
Legally, with an L driver, you can’t move to the back seat, so tough it out.
Once on the highway or street, things will calm down. It’s okay to breathe again. Quit tightening your seat belt and relax.
As we started driving on the highway she asked the inevitable question. “How am I doing Dad?”
I said, “Great. You’re doing just great.”
She heard, “You’re too far to the right! You’re too far to the left! Slow down! Speed up! Oh God, please make it end!”
And then there’s the first stop sign.
I said, “Just edge up to it, come to a complete stop, then ease out and enter traffic when it’s clear to do so.”
She heard, “Stop! Gun it! Stop! We’re going to die! For the love of God, please STOP!”
The next lesson you need to know is frightening. You will need an exorcist. Because at some time, at some place, your child’s head will start spinning around and you will hear language that would make a logger run out to sharpen his saw.
Just get your window down, don’t let that stuff rebound back into the other ear.
And then, like I do, pretend you’re Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. Except I change it to, Driving Miss Crazy.
“For your information grumble, grumble, grumble,” she said.
“Yes, Miss Crazy,” I mumbled.
“And another thing, you’re grumble, grumble, grumble,” she said.
“Yes, Miss Crazy,” I mumbled..
And then there’s the body language. She had pulled the car to a stop while turning into a parking spot. “Why do you do that?” she asked.
“Do what?” I asked, innocently.
“Every time I turn into the driveway or a parking lot your body goes stiff and straightens, like you’re being electrocuted,” she said.
“I do not,” I said.
“And you grab onto the door handle with one hand and the dash board with the other.”
“I do not,” I said.
She looked down to my hands, which were still clamped in a death grip to the door handle and dash board. She offered a wane smile.
Eventually, to alleviate all the stress, we enrolled her in a driving school. I waited out the hour while she was on her lesson. Then the car pulled in and my daughter and the instructor got out. I listened politely as the instructor gave a glowing, passing grade.
I was proud, yet inquisitive. I stepped closer so only he could hear, “Did, she, um, use any questionable language?”
The instructor smiled. “No,” he said. “She was very polite and very easy to teach. Although I have had that question before.”