Thursday, May 11, 2006
Having a teenager who is starting to drive and working to get her driver’s license is a bit of a scary thing.
A couple of weeks ago Emma told me, “Mr. Rayford said we’re going to come by and get you one day at The South Reporter and let you ride with us while I drive.”
Van Rayford is her driver’s ed teacher at school.
I said, “OK,” of course, but better on a Thursday or Friday (after the newspaper is on the streets).
They came by that Thursday, and I sat in the back seat for my trip around town with my soon-to-be, 15-year-old daughter at the wheel.
Emma was extra nervous, I believe, since her dad was in the car, and her dad was nervous, too.
Mr. Rayford had told us not to give her a lot of hands-on training ahead of time. That’s because parents usually teach bad habits.
Emma performed well in the driver’s ed car. She was extra cautious, which is good, and tried hard to do all the things Mr. Rayford had taught, in the classroom and in the car.
I don’t think he had to use his brake on his side.
He bragged and bragged about her progress.
It carried me back some 30 years to when I took driver’s ed. Coincidentally, we drove by my old high school Sunday on a trip home to Alabama.
My teacher back in the late ’70s was one of my basketball coaches.
I had plenty of driving experience going in, mainly on motorcycles, but taking driver’s ed with a couple of classmates and a coach in the car with you wasn’t all that fun.
The best part about it was actually getting “out of school” and riding around.
Back then we had to parallel park on our driving test. I guess they still do, even though there seems to be fewer and fewer actual parking places around that deserve parallel parking.
I recall the day very well I went to try and get my driver’s license.
Who isn’t nervous on that big day?
I think the key is the person doing the testing - the one riding with you and grading you. He or she can make you feel more relaxed or more nervous.
Thank goodness, mine (a state trooper in uniform) wasn’t so serious, even though he was giving a serious test.
Once I nailed the parallel parking on the first try, I knew the rest was going to be fine.
I had a car when I turned 16. But I don’t like sharing that with my own children.
It’s much different when you’re the parent and the child is asking for the car.
And when you start thinking about being a three-car family with the price of gasoline these days, that’s enough to get you down. I’ve been thinking about dusting off my bicycle and getting it out of the garage.
During my years of raising children when I’ve talked about the challenges and obstacles, many older than I have said, “Just wait until they start to drive.”
I guess I’m feeling a bit of that apprehension these days.
We still have over a year before “the car thing.” But Emma’s already scanning automobile dealer advertisements and lots and picking out her favorites. I might just give her mine by then and buy me another.
For now, Emma will have to settle for more experience with her mom and dad in their vehicles.
Since starting driver’s ed, Emma corrects me while I’m driving.
“You didn’t come to a complete stop,” she has said.
Or, “Slow down.”
It’s a bit irritating at times, but I like it, too.
I just hope she remembers those words and the others Mr. Rayford has taught.
Driving is a huge responsibility.
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