There’s nothing quite as unnerving as teaching your teenagers to drive. One minute you’re strapping them into their rear-facing car seat, and the next thing you know, they are the ones behind the wheel asking if you’re buckled in. It’s terrifying.
Many of my teenage daughter’s friends are reluctant to get their learner’s permits. For whatever reason, they are content to have their parents, or other license-bearing friends, shuttle them around. Not my daughter. Technically, she was eligible for her permit on Christmas day. Since the DMV was closed for the holiday, we were in line bright and early on Dec. 26.
She passed the permit test on her first try, and I white-knuckled it as she proudly drove us to Chick-Fil-A to celebrate. Her pride soon turned to panic as the relentless drivers around her impatiently honked and then passed her. I kept telling her she had to drive faster to keep with the flow of traffic. “But I’m going the speed limit!” she yelled back.
This became an all-too-frequent exchange between the two of us as she learned to drive. I was constantly telling her to drive faster. Even though she was technically going the speed limit, I realized how much everyone around us was in a hurry. Myself included.
Having to sit in the passenger seat made me reflect on my own bad driving habits – and how they reflect the way I live my life in and out of the car.
As parents, we are constantly trying to get somewhere on time and fit in that one last errand. We rush from the bus stop to the dry cleaners to a doctor’s appointment. We cram in a trip to the grocery store before we have to drop off one child at soccer practice and then another at voice lessons. And then we get to do it all in reverse and pick everyone up again!
As much as I try to tell myself to slow down, the days fly by. The back-to-school routine has our family calendar booked solid. The kids are up early and off to school, and afternoons and evenings are filled with homework, school projects, after-school activities, sports practice…all the things that make our life busy, but also FULL.
This fall, I’m trying to focus on and appreciate the blessings of a FULL family life and not get derailed by the overwhelming busyness of it. Sometimes it’s ok to slow down and follow the speed limit. What if every errand doesn’t get done, or we’re a few minutes late to practice? Life goes on. And maybe we’ve taken a moment to live it, rather than run through it.
My daughter is now a full-blown licensed driver. I am proud to say she is very responsible, and luckily, did not pick up my impatient driving habits. Yes, teaching her was terrifying at times, but the payoff is huge. She drives herself to school, work, play rehearsals and swim practice. She also (reluctantly) helps shuttle her little brother around. Honestly, having a teenage driver in the mix is as life-changing as I feared it would be, but in a good way! Each trip she takes is one less trip I take. And I don’t take for granted any opportunity to avoid D.C. area traffic.
So next time you’re silently cursing at the driver in front of you for going too slow, take a breath and try to relax. Use that moment to consider if you’re really in a hurry, or if you’re in a hurrying habit. Don’t honk the horn or yell as you pass. My daughter could be the one driving that car!
Washington FAMILY Magazine