My own memories as a student driver are horrible. The friction between my mother in the passenger seat slamming her invisible break and grasping the arm rest because I took a turn too fast frustrated both of us. I think our own steam fogged the windows and I didn’t even know where to find the defrost control. The hours I had to log under her nervous watch seemed excessive to a sixteen year old, but it was worth enduring to attain the freedom driving offered. I remember the first time I drove my own little blue fiat bought for eleven hundred dollars I borrowed. I drove to dance practice at the local community college and I wound my way up the spiral parking ramp chugging and sputtering with my stick shift. The actual event of parking it and exiting the car alone was triumphant. I might have stood there a moment to memorize the sensation of independence. I am sure I trotted towards my class with a new grown up confidence. No one had to know the reverse on my little fiat was my left leg that I hung out an open door and pushed while I kept the car in neutral. The point was that it drove forward and it delivered me to the places I needed to be.(my car looked like this except it was blue)
When it was time for me to learn to drive in those days I was beating down doors to get my license. It didn’t seem there was anything that could deter me from being able to drive. I was desperate not to rely on getting rides to my dance practices. At sixteen I took a job bussing tables on Friday and Saturday night at a local family restaurant. I was the first bus “girl” they ever hired. I had to work so much harder than those lazy boys to prove I could do the job. The tips were good and so I hung in there. I needed that job to make payment on my first jalopy. What a bad choice that car was, but I had to have it because it was a cute little blue box and I thought I looked good in it. What I didn’t know when I bought it was it would break down every month and the parts and labor cost more than I made. That’s why I figured my left leg reverse was an acceptable solution. It was free.
I assumed my own boys would also beat down the doors to get their licenses. That couldn’t be further from the real picture. Instead imagine a little mama rolling a boulder the size of a small house towards the driver’s education school. That would be me getting my boys to learn to drive. I really believed they’d be shoving brochures towards me about driving schools, signing up, offering to pay, whatever it took to get their license. No. I had to bring it up all the time with responses of blank stares and empty agreements and then no followup action. I had to schedule the classes, pay, and eventually force them behind the wheel to actually drive. With both Donny and Jordan I asked, “Why aren’t you excited about driving?” They both told me, “I’m scared.”
After thinking about it I am relieved driving scares them stiff. This shows me they understand the magnitude of the responsibility that comes with moving a vehicle on the roads. They are better students when they don’t assume they already know everything and couldn’t possibly learn anything from their old old old parents. Jordan now is in the driving part of his education. He has his permit and has only begun getting onto the roads this week. The first day I said, “you are driving”. He told me, “No.” But I made him do it, and he was cautious, aware, and a good listener to my calm instructions. I know from my psychology training that my demeanor will be the base point for their ability to learn from me. If I’m a nervous wreck on the outside, they will be as well. I put on a practiced, smooth, calm front no matter what’s going on inside. If I can’t do that we don’t get into the car together. He deserves a “teacher” who is not afraid of him, but has all the confidence for him that he needs until he gets it himself.
Afterwards, he couldn’t hold back his grin. That evening he came into my room when I was reading in bed and told me “thanks mom, I really liked driving.” Craig and I agree Jordan is becoming a very good driver. He’s grown up so much this year. I hardly see a trace of that silly strange ninth grade boy from last year who forced us to our knees begging God to keep him alive until he came to his senses. He’s at his senses now, and what a joy it is to get to know this young man.