Mama Madison: A time to teach, a time to drive

...and a time to worry

I think it was my driver's ed teacher -- or maybe it was my mother -- who told me, as I placed the key in the ignition of our 1960-something Chevy Impala for the very first time, that unless I became a police officer, fire fighter or joined the armed services, driving was the most dangerous activity I would likely undertake in my life.

While I have no idea if this is statistically true, these words have echoed loudly in my mind this past week. My 15-year-old son now has his learner's permit.

Getting the permit was deceptively easy. He passed a written test at his driver's ed class and the next day he and I headed to the DMV. While there he filled out some paperwork, decided to become an organ donor, got his picture taken, and took a quick eye test. I then signed a document accepting responsibility for his driving actions (yikes) and the woman behind counter three handed us a temporary copy of the permit (the laminated real deal comes in the mail). It took all of 20 minutes.

Legally, he could have driven me home. Except I don't think he even knows how the headlights work.

I guess you could say the hard part starts now. Sure, he'll take a couple of lessons behind the wheel as part of his driver's ed class. But ultimately, it's my husband and I who will teach him to drive.

And for me, that's like asking me to teach someone how to swim or ride a bike. Both are things I know how to do. But I'm hardly a master of either one of them, and you certainly wouldn't want me as your instructor. As a driver, you would call me competent, at best. I can probably get you from point A to point B safely, but it might not be too pretty -- the multiple dings and scratches on the side of my car pay testament to this fact.

Fortunately though, my husband should be pretty good at this. First, he really enjoys driving -- the more challenging the situation, the better. When we lived in Mexico City some years back, I never once got behind the wheel of our Nissan Tsuru. There didn't seem to be any rules of the road South of the Border, as far I could tell. No one used turn signals, or respected speed limits or road signs. They only used horns. And used them all the time.

But my husband relished the automobile anarchy. He took great pride in becoming a simultaneously excellent offensive and defensive driver. To him, driving has always been a bit of a sport. And one he really enjoys playing.

But perhaps more importantly, my husband is also more patient. His number one rule of the universe is "don't panic." And I am guessing this philosophy will make him far better equipped at keeping his cool during the inevitable parallel parking pitfalls and ill-advised lane changes that come with beginning driving.

So I think for right now I might take the back seat when it comes to my son's driving instruction. Instead, I will concentrate my time on silently praying he actually does become a police officer.

But the kind of officer, mind you, who rides a horse instead of driving the squad car.

Any other moms out there with kids of driving age? Any tips on how you protected both your kid and your sanity while teaching offspring how to drive?

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