Driving Lessons Part One: The Early Years

“Well, at least now I know not to floor it going into the driveway while cutting off people and scraping the front of the car on the curb,” my 15 year old daughter reflected after putting the car into park.

We all know that this day is coming.  Parents are always marking off the milestones with our children-first tooth, first steps, first words, first day of school, first loose tooth, first ….driving lesson?

I decided to handle this milestone by putting the responsibility with my daughter.  If she wanted to drive, she needed to be mature and responsible enough to make it happen.  She would be obligated to research the online driver’s training course, sign up and complete the requirements.  All I needed to do was provide the credit card number.

So she did.

Then it was time to take the written test.  Again, the ball was in her court.  She must research the hours of the DMV, figure out how to set up an appointment, make the appointment, study for the test and then show up and take it.  All I needed to do was drive her there.

So she did.

Turns out the written test wasn’t as easy as she thought.  She needed to figure out a different way to study and approach the test.  All I needed to do was buy the DMV app from iTunes.  That would buy me a few more weeks.

So I did.

I have a determined sort of daughter, it turns out.  She studied and studied and eventually passed. The look on her face when she realized that she had gotten 100% was one I’ll never forget!  My elation diminished quickly when I realized the next step: behind the wheel.

Again, she had to do the set up.  Some might call this denial on my part – I call it strategy.  Each step she accomplished on her own showed me that she was mature enough to handle driving, and allowed me a bit of time to get used to the idea.

When the day came for her first lesson I trembled with nervousness like she was going on her first date.  Her white haired instructor, Luther, pulled up and quickly took her to his car.  This milestone wasn’t as satisfying as her first word or her first steps.  This one stung a little.

After what seemed like hours sitting in the driveway behind the wheel, she slowly backed out and drove off.  My baby-behind the wheel of a bright blue Honda.

Two hours later she returned.  No bumps or bruises or tear stains on her face.  Her coy smile told me everything went ok, and Luther confirmed it.  “A bit fast on the turns” was his only comment, aside from telling me that she now NEEDED TO DRIVE EVERY TIME WE GOT IN THE CAR!

What?  Did I hear him correctly?  Every time?  There must be some other way…some type of driving simulator? My little red Prius doesn’t have a driver’s side set of brakes-how will I survive?

Like her first steps, her first words and the first day of school, I survived.  The fear of the unknown haunts me as a parent.  I knew what life was like when she could only crawl, would make baby signs for things she needed, or was only in preschool part of the day.  I could never imagine how it could be any better than that moment, or how any age could me more special.  But somehow, it was, and so is she.

Watching my first baby behind the wheel makes me think about all the lessons she’s learned in the last 15 years.  She has learned the confidence it took to research the driving school.  She has learned the responsibility it took to complete the online course.  She has learned the determination it took to keep studying for the written test.  She learned the poise it took to drive off in an unknown car with a strange man.  And she’s learned that her mom trusts her enough to put her in charge of a lethal weapon – my little red Prius.

I hope she is learning how much I believe in her.  I know she can do anything she sets her mind to.

To be continued…

mamawolfe spends her days teaching and parenting, and her nights writing about it.  
Visit her blog mamawolfe for more life lessons and opinions on the world today

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. I love it that you documented your daughter’s whole process of getting her license. I plan to have my son get a license too as well. We will need to check if there is an expert on Teen Drivers Ed nearby to help us out.

  2. Oh Gretta, this reminds me of my one and only driving lesson with my mum when I was 17. I was the “academic” member of the family so everyone made it clear that I was far too dizzy to learn to drive: “Keep death off the roads!” they said, and my dad kissed the car before we set off. Well, there was a lot of shouting and I didn’t sit behind the wheel again until I had my first job after uni. After lots of professional lessons I passed the test first time and sprang the surprise on my family. I haven’t driven much since then so I won’t be teaching my daughter to drive. I wonder if hypnotherapy would help……

  3. My sister is about to turn 15 and she needs to start having driving lessons. I liked your suggestion about leaving it to her to research a driving school for her to go to. It is interesting to think of how it would be a way for her to show her maturity and how interest.

  4. Driving school educates young drivers. It teaches them the rules of the road and traffic laws, as well as the proper techniques that should be used to operate their vehicle. In this sense, driver education will provide the foundation for safe and effective driving in all situations.

  5. Getting on the road legally can sometimes be accomplished without possessing full knowledge of the road rules that are so important to safe driving. All you have to do is drive for a few minutes to see how careless many other drivers sometimes are. This may include yourself. To combat this, driving school teaches at almost an individual level. It pairs trained driving professionals with teen drivers to give them the best possible education of the rules and procedures of the road. It’s one thing to read about street laws and driving practices; it is another thing altogether to experience them firsthand. 

  6. You can use an independent driving instructor or a driving school that might have several instructors for you to choose from. It is your preference.

  7. Two common problems that befall teenage drivers are overconfidence and a lack of confidence while driving. Overconfident teen drivers more often get into accidents and receive traffic citations, while young drivers lacking confidence may hesitate at the wrong time or freeze up in a trying situation. This, too, can lead to accidents. Driving school helps young drivers gain the confidence they need to be safe, effective drivers without being overbearing on the roads.

  8. Don’t appoint an instructor based on price alone. If an instructor’s hourly rate is considerably lower than other instructors in the area, you should find out whether they intend to increase the price later.

    1. Don’t pick your driving instructor on price, choose by recommendation. A cheap driving instructor may be cheap because of a bad reputation therefore finds it difficult to get work, or because of bad teaching habits and efficiency, and therefore it takes more lessons which will end up costing you more in the long run.

  9. An impressive post, I just gave this to a colleague who is doing a little analysis on this topic. And he is very happy and thanking me for finding it. But all thanks to you for writing in such simple words. Big thumb up for this blog post!

    driving lessons

  10. Well, your daughter got a perfect score on her written exam so, there’s really no doubt that she is also going to pass the actual driving exam. She clearly has the confidence and courage to getting behind the wheel, which is important and one big factor to passing the practical test. I personally think that she is most definitely qualified to becoming an excellent driver.

    Marvis Carswell

  11. I have found this milestone to be among the most stressful of parenthood. I out the ball in my oldest son’s court; he is now 18 and has his learner’s permit. His is a pace I like. His sister will be 14 in April and is far more excited about it. Sigh. Congrats to you and your daughter. She sounds like a go getter. 🙂

  12. It is horrifying isn’t it? I’m on kid #2 with a permit and the first driving lessons, with both of my oldest, caused so much panic in me that I sweat and freaked out my kids.


  13. What did Erma Bombeck say? “Never lend your car to someone you gave birth to” or something like that?
    We are soon to embark upon this milestone ourselves. He is so eager and I *do* want to trust him but the insurance industry stats about teenage boys’ driving doesn’t give me any comfort. Trust and a whole lot of praying … can we not just stay here in the driveway in ‘P’ for just a little longer??

  14. Wow!! You must be so proud. My son won’t be driving anytime soon but I bet I’d cry after he passes his driver’s test. We’re so used to seeing them as helpless little angles (as they were when they first came out) that when they learn how to be independent, we’re reminded that they’ll soon no longer need us.

  15. See, I’m quite terrified for when this day comes. It is only a few 7 years away for us; when my oldest will get his learners permit. I’m not excited. You are so brave! I had a hard enough time accepting that my 8 year old son was old enough to walk to the bus stop at the end of the block; let alone anything else!

    I’m proud of her too! It looks like you did it the right way, having her be in charge of taking the initiative to study, schedule the appointment, and do basically everything on her own. I will definitely be doing it that way with my kids. If they really want it enough, then they can be responsible enough to do all the hard work themselves, I won’t be there pushing them to do it.

    Visiting from VB
    JadeLouise Designs

    1. Amber, you’re right. These milestones do take some bravery…I want to hold on to her childhood, but at the same time it’s so exciting to see her grow up into a competent and happy young woman!

    1. Perspective, if I can keep the ‘what ifs’ away…sounds like the story of my parenting experience! Trying to focus on the present and not ‘trip’ on the future is my constant plan!

    1. Thank you, Elisa. Motivated is good-especially when it’s motivation in the right direction! Keeping good grades is definitely a requirement for car usage once the passes the driving test!

  16. I never would have thought to make my kid do the legwork. Brilliant! Kevin turned 15 in October. We talk about it but he doesn’t seem too eager to learn! Interesting. We have some grade issues we are working on too and he knows those have to get better before he starts the whole driving thing. I am already nervous about the driving part with me in the passenger seat. Yikes!

    1. MA-I find it interesting that many kids these days are not as interested in getting their license as they were in our day…has it lost it’s right-of-passage status? I say if Kevin wants it, he has to work for it! Go mom!

  17. Wow, you do have so much confidence in your daughter. That all the more motivates her, I can see.

    I don’t know how I would feel if it were my daughter starting to drive. I’ll deal with that when the day comes 🙂

  18. I love it! What a fabulous idea to make her do all the legwork for this major milestone! I’m sure she will appreciate you so much for this. As for you, hang in there. I can only imagine what I’ll do when this time comes. Three short years….AUGHHH!

  19. Kudos to you for making it through without a nervous breakdown! I can’t even imagine Ender being old enough to drive never mind actually wanting to do it!

  20. I’ll never forget my first time behind the wheel, with my dad by my side. No required driver’s ed in those days . . . just a determined dad wanting me to drive my five siblings around so he wouldn’t have to.

    I’ve been through three kids learning to drive, and each time I didn’t think we’d make it, especially those “enforced” they need to drive every time you’re in the car rules! Yikes!

    Now, I’m happily on the other side, and perfectly willing to let the kids drive anytime!

    You’ll be there too . . . much sooner than you realize!

    1. Sandi, I am secretly excited that my daughter will be able to drive on errands, as well as take herself to her classes, friend’s houses, school events, and basically wherever I tell her to! I’m sure it will come soon-so much of parenting has gone on hyperspeed!

  21. Dear Jennifer,
    Seems to me that your daughter has a marvelous mother who has trusted her throughout her life, shown her love daily, and provided a secure environment in which to grow and flourish. A child, a teen-ager, an adult can go far when they’ve known trust and love and security. Well done!


  22. I remember how panicky my dad was when he first took me out in the car. He was a wreck, needless to say, my mom taught me to drive.
    I was taught to be careful and realize the responsibility that came with driving and I am so glad that my parents did that.
    You’ll make it too, my mom did! 🙂

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