Having six children I felt I was ready for just about anything by the time the last ones were left at home.
The first child and driver’s education. Wow! I had no idea as I rode with the oldest soon after she received her driver’s permit. Driving down a wide parkway with no traffic, I was sure we’d be fine. What a great place to start driving? Until the first swerve came to view. I waited, grasping the edge of my seat, boring my fingernails in the leather upholstery. She didn’t turn the wheel. I kept waiting. Wondering. Praying. (My prayer went something like this, “Please don’t let my rates go up when she smashes my new car into the curb.”) At the last possible second the car jerked minimally to the left, just missing the curb by inches. She smiled proudly, “Made that turn.” My heart skipped a beat. It wasn’t even a turn. It was a slight bend on an otherwise straight road. What was going to happen when she had to turn left in a few blocks? Worse? What would happen on our street at the bottom of the hill when the road had a ninety degree turn? (I wished I’d had a voodoo doll to reign curses and terror on the father who’d made me a single mother to endure this torture alone.)
Along came the second teenager. I thought it’d be easier after all I was experienced. I was wrong. He drove as if he were the favored star in a NASCAR event. I gripped the holy Hannah bar attached to the dashboard. With this child, I didn’t pray for my insurance to not go up. That prayer was already unanswered as soon as I added that teenage boy to my policy. Instead, I prayed that my feet would once again see solid ground with minimal damage to my body and mind. Who cared about the car when I was in eminent danger?
Over the course of these teenage drivers, my husband and I endured:
- Speeding tickets
- Several parking tickets
- Frequent locked keys in car
- Lost keys
- dent bumper from running into a pillar in a parking garage
- scrape down the entire passenger side of our truck -deep scrape with an accompanied dent
- bashed in front fender
- hit the house -twice (Lesson learned … Don’t have the teenager put the car back in the garage.)
- hit a car with an accompanied frantic exclamation, “It had a horse emblem on it. I think it was a Porsche or Ferrari.” (Panicked parents met with the owner of the other car which ended up being a Chevy. Whew!)
- Bent a passenger door of our truck to a 90-degree angle – in the middle of the door
- Many (MANY) dented rims from hitting curbs
- White stripe on the green car from side-swiping one of our cars with the other in the driveway
- Red stripe on white car. “Maybe someone accidently backed into me in the parking lot.”
- An odd bald spot on a tire. (The informer -the youngest –later narrated a story of doing donuts in the family suburban.)
(Before you judge these teenage angels harshly, your child probably has done the same. You just haven’t heard about it yet.)
As I lived through these antics, a vivid memory returned to my memory. My brother and I went to the same college and shared a Chevette, provided to us by her father. I was shocked to learn from my father about a dent in the passenger side rear fender. My brother didn’t confess. I figured I’d been hit while on campus. The punishment for damaging any of my father’s cars was the guilty had to fix the problem. Since dad owned a body shop, he patiently taught each of his children skills which he deemed necessary. Valiantly, I sat on the ground with a suction cup, small drill and the putty to fix the car. Hours later, with a little help from my expert father, the car looked as good as new.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving dinner about a decade later. We’re now married with children of our own and out comes the rest of the story. My brother and his buddies were pulling donuts in the little Chevette. They’d dented the fender but didn’t want to confess, knowing dad would have no patience for those antics.
From this list, I felt quite qualified in dealing with the last of our children driving. I almost looked forward to teaching my youngest ones to drive. It was the end of an era. Until … the realization came. I had TWO in driver’s education. Now my prayer is a simple, “Please let them teach their six children how to drive.”
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.