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Facts & Arguments Essay

Teaching teens to drive is hell Add to ...

I had to take to my bed. The half-hour drive from my mother's house to our home did me in. My 17-year-old daughter was behind the wheel.

Her driving test loomed, so she needed to clock some practice time. The trek from country to city would be a good stretch of road for her to gain that needed driving experience.

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She has completed the classroom lessons and has spent many minutes behind the wheel of her driving teacher's car. Less so in ours. No real reason, but I'm generally the taxi driver, her closest friends aren't into driving yet and the bus system is reliable. It all adds up to inexperience.

It was raining on this Sunday afternoon. Heavily at times. The windshield wipers were on as fast as they could go.

We discussed hydroplaning and I flashed back to one of my scariest driving memories. A group of us were in Czechoslovakia and I was the designated driver. We had had some rain and on the return back from our tourist trip I hit water and the car sped toward the guardrail and we nearly crashed.

I don't think I've fully recovered from that trauma. This realization became more and more apparent as my daughter meandered her way home.

Her driving teacher said he rarely needs to ask his students to speed up, but he always has to remind my daughter to drive faster. She laughs at her caution and I give thanks for it. Although when we had a good six cars behind us on the rural route, I told her to pull over to let them pass.

The drive started off on a mile-long dirt road. We slowed down for three deer and she tried to figure out pothole avoidance. I discussed the game plan for an oncoming car as vehicles are tricky to see around the corners.

She commented on her lack of interest in learning to drive. I silently gave thanks for this reticence and suggested that she plan to live in a big city with a good subway system.

Then, the dirt road ended and her turn onto the pavement was less than elegant. Apparently my comments had some edge to them as she requested in her mature, adult voice if I could agree not to be angry with her.

I explained in my "I am a good and caring mother" voice that my anger was really just fear and if my fear sounded like anger, she needed to realize it was, in fact, only fear. We both laughed and settled in for the drive home.

I thought that my comments about the yellow signs were helpful. She assured me that she knew what the signs meant. My reminders of the upcoming turns and water on the road and how heavy the rain was falling and the changing speed limits might have been excessive.

Over all, I was doing okay, though. I experienced a few body jerks as my side of the car travelled over the white line. I found deep breathing helped.

That all changed when we headed onto the highway. She had to merge onto a new road, then at the lights make a left turn. The act of merging and getting into the left lane proved awkward.

"Where do I go?" she asked anxiously.

Pointing and speaking rapidly, I answered, "There, just there, no … yes."

Then she just stopped. She stopped the car - at a green light. The volume of my voice turned up. She sulked and I calculated how much longer the never-ending drive would be. We still had a long way to go.

I fidgeted, I grabbed the overhead handle, I took more deep breaths and debated with myself. If I had her pull over because I just couldn't take it any more, what long-lasting effect would that have on her driving? If I kept grabbing my hands and twisting my fingers, would it break any bones? Would the building stress headache actually make my head explode?

I loved my mother more during this drive. I thought about the worry she never voiced to me. I remembered one of my first times driving into Halifax. My mom was by my side and a friend was in the back seat. I have no recollection of my mother raising her voice or her body flailing next to mine. She did note my cutting off a bus, pointing out that the bus was bigger. I thought of what she had to endure with four kids learning to drive. I have only one.

We parents talk about our kids learning to walk and learning to talk and school struggles and friend troubles and the teenage years, but not as much about the learning-to-drive phase.

Is my fear and anxiety to be kept a secret? Does my child's tendency to hug the white line and go slow, then speed up, then go really slow, then slower still mean I did something wrong and should not confess?

Is there some sort of unspoken pact that parents should grin and bear it and wait for the hell of driving lessons to become rote and forgotten?

As we made our way home that rainy Sunday, my kid wished that we had a sign for our car stating that she was a new driver; she thought that it would be helpful for other drivers.

I, too, would like some kind of sign. I could wear it around my neck: mother of a teenager learning to drive - hugs, stiff drinks and hair-colouring kits accepted.



Michelle Thomason lives in Halifax.

 

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