Please don’t put the pedal to the metal

Now that Jennifer Lynn has turned 16, we have moved into the phase of parenting a teenager that is one of my least favorite based on my experience with her older two siblings.

She made it smoothly through the oftentimes difficult junior high years so what is it that has my stomach in knots? It’s riding with her while she learns to drive. While sitting in the passenger seat with my foot pressed so hard into the floor that it has turned white, I often fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be able to afford to pay someone else $80 an hour to rack up the 50 hours of driving experience she needs in order to take the driving test to get her license.

Teaching your child to drive seems like a task better left to a trained professional. It’s one thing as a parent to teach your child how to cook or play tennis because if their inexperience causes them to make a mistake, nobody dies. The only thing that happens is the cake doesn’t rise or they have to chase down a few balls. But when it’s 4,000 pounds of metal moving toward a pedestrian, the stakes are a lot higher.

One thing I have never understood is why the DMV doesn’t issue a “Student Driver” sign that parents can put in the window of the car while their kids are getting their behind-the-wheel experience. Would the jerks who honked, illegally passed her, and tailgated her have been a little more forgiving if they knew this was her second time on the road?

When we’re in the car, in an effort not to have comments about the mere six inches between us and the parked cars come out in a shout of absolute panic, I find myself tacking on terms of endearment that I never otherwise use with her. “Start putting on the brakes NOW, honey.” Or, “YOU NEED TO LOOK BEFORE YOU CHANGE LANES, sweetie.” Unfortunately, I don’t think these overly affectionate nicknames are masking my terror.

After turning into the lane of oncoming traffic in an apartment complex, I could tell her confidence needed a boost so I reminded her that I’m sure she has sufficient brain power to become the 22,657,289th licensed driver in California. It’s just going to take a little practice.

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