We knew there would be lots to be terrified about when our kids morphed into teen drivers. But we didn’t know how much we would learn about ourselves—and them!
When a teen gets a drivers license, there are so many things that go through a parent’s mind. Will he be safe? How will I know where she is and who she’s with? What will it do to my car insurance rates???
None of that was a surprise when my kids got their drivers license and started heading off on their own. But there were plenty of other surprises in store.
For me, the first surprise was that I wasn’t losing a daughter, I was gaining a back seat driver. A really critical, really annoying back seat driver. One who kept an eagle eye on everything I did. Every time I went one mile over the speed limit, I would hear, “You know the speed limit here is (fill in the blank)” in the worst know-it-all voice I had ever heard coming out of that sweet mouth.
Should I be so reckless as to change lanes on the highway without first engaging my turn signal, I would hear “Turn signal!” in the same demanding tone one might use to yell “Don’t hit that deer running across the road!” Now that she’s an experienced driver of 3 years, it has toned down to a sarcastic, “Nice signal, Mom.”
Turns out I’m not the only Mom who learned a thing or two once she had a freshly-minted teen driver in the family. Here are a few of the more surprising moments other moms learned from their teen drivers.
Teen Drivers Are Happy to Run Errands—As Long as It Requires Driving
Susie Kellogg found that her teen drivers were suddenly happy to “stop whatever they are doing to run any errand at any time of day.” She says the novelty wears off, “but I couldn’t believe how helpful it was to have a driver.” Lucky for her, she has 12 kids, so she will have a supply of freshly minted teen drivers for the next decade or so!
Some Teen Drivers Still Don’t Want to Drive
It was different for Dana Zucker’s twins. Even after they got their licenses, they still wanted her to drive them around. “They were so exhausted from school, her dancing and his gymnastics, they wanted the time in the car to chill and chat.” It was a mixed blessing–“frustrating because I was still driving all the time and no wine with dinner for me BUT great because they still wanted to be with me,” she says.
Lots of Teen Drivers Only Want to Drive Sometimes
Kathy Penny’s nephew is happy to drive. When he wants to. When her sister asks him to run an errand, he says he’s too inexperienced or doesn’t feel comfortable doing that drive. “But when he wants to go to the movies or play basketball with his buddies, he’s as experienced as a long-haul truck driver!” Penny says.
We Don’t Know Everything
That’s what Scotty Reiss learned when her daughter was learning to drive. “I learned during driver’s ed parents’ night that texting while sitting at a traffic light is illegal and dangerous. I had no idea–I thought because I was stopped, I was safe. It was too late to model good behavior, so I had to constantly reinforce the point that checking phones while behind the wheel is not safe,” she says. She hopes that the lesson is being passed to her daughter. “But often when I’m in the passenger seat, I hear her phone beep and see her look at it.”
We Have More Time
Julie Adolf was thrilled with all of the time she suddenly had after her daughter got her drivers license. “I used to spend 5 hours a day, driving my girl to the barn (45 minutes each way, waiting while she rode, waiting while she cleaned tack, waiting, waiting…).” Her daughter now can drive herself. But it isn’t all good news. “I also miss those alone hours with her. It’s a Catch-22!”
We Want Them to Driver Faster!
This happened when my son still had his learner’s permit. Since we lived in a densely populated urban area with constantly clogged highways, it was very hard for him to get any experience driving at highway speeds. So we had him drive on a trip to visit family in rural Wisconsin. I talked him through how to merge onto the highways and into traffic. As he hit the entrance ramp, I anxiously watched the speedometer–30 miles per hour. 35. 40. I was secretly putting the peddle to the metal on my passenger side. To no avail.
As the trucks swerved around us, I found myself yelling: “You HAVE to go faster!” His response: “I’m already going twice as fast as I have ever gone before!” He did finally get it up to 55. Just barely. And when I looked at him again, he had a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel and sweat pouring off his brow.
I asked if he was OK. He replied, “Yeah. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a shower when I get there.”
We’re Role Models, Even When We Don’t Want to Be
That was true for Sarah Ricks, who has a bit of a lead foot. “My driving is now often compared to every car chase we see in movies,” she says. ”Or, when they go through a tight yellow, they call it a ‘Mom Move.’”
An Accident Can Be a Good Thing
When Sherry Boswell’s daughter caused a crash on her way to school, it turned to be a blessing in disguise. “Before that, she was fearless about driving. Now she is much more cautious and looks ahead much more. Plus, she has to raise the money to get a new-to-her car so she’s got much more skin in the game with HER car because she’s plunking down hard earned money to get it. Life lessons!”
And there Are Lessons We Learn Before They Are Teens
Kids do everything at a much younger age these days. At least Kendra Pierson’s son did. Her 4-year-old already is a back seat driver. And a tattle tale. If Kendra picks up her phone rather than using hands-free Bluetooth, he tells on her when they get home!