My oldest daughter was a fussy baby and had a fierce gag reflex, which forced her to vomit whenever she got worked up and cried hard. Switching her to bottle feeding was difficult, as she was simply too stubborn to take it and could seemingly throw up on command when she decided she wanted to. Being a working mom, I agonized endlessly about being away while she was at daycare, and worried that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. My manager at the time, while empathetic to my situation, was teaching his own teenage daughter to drive, and I clearly remember him saying, “I’d much rather be trying to get her to take a bottle. That was the easy stuff.”
Fast forward 15 years, and I, of course, am now in that same position. Embarking on teaching our teenage daughter to drive has brought up many mixed feelings. On one hand, I am looking forward to her having more independence, and giving us more freedom from the constant shuttling to all of her activities. On the other hand, I’m afraid to put her out there in the world, amongst other drivers, in potentially dangerous situations. I’m wary of her possibly making poor choices, and physically getting farther and farther away from us. It’s hard to give up the control when she still feels like my baby. While we may find more freedom as parents, freedom from worrying is not on the table.
When I was a teen, driver’s education was taught in school. As soon as you became of age, you signed up and started lessons, entirely free and paid for by the school board. Our Driver’s Ed teacher wandered the halls with all of the other teachers, his necked cricked to one side, reportedly from a car accident with one of his students. Today, in our province, the public school system has nothing to do with it—driving is the responsibility of the parents, to both teach your teen, or find a reputable driving school to teach them. At a cost, of course.
And so begins the task of at least starting some driving lessons at home. Getting into the passenger side for the first time, with my daughter in the driver’s seat adjusting the mirrors, made me want to open the door and throw up onto the curb. Is there a handbook for this? I tried to remember all of my Driver’s Ed lessons from nearly 30 years before and swallow my fear as she gently rolled the wheels around the Walmart parking lot. I survived that first ‘lesson’ but quickly realized, I am no driving teacher—she will be embarking on driving without my hangups and fears, by signing her up for some much-needed lessons.
It’s a bittersweet realisation because a driving teen is the ultimate milestone—they no longer need you in the same way. As much as we are struggling with it, she’s ready. Just like a baby moving from breast to bottle-feeding—which upon reflection, wasn’t so bad. And hopefully, this won’t be either.