Making driver training work | Living with Gleigh

I've been bugging my almost 16-year old daughter to get to practicing her driving. I put her in driver's ed when she turned 15 on purpose.

I’ve been bugging my almost 16-year old daughter to get to practicing her driving. I put her in driver’s ed when she turned 15 on purpose.

When I had forced my older daughter at 17 to finally take driver’s ed, I was sitting in on one of the classes (as required) and they were talking about how a 15-year old could get a waiver for their permit if they were signed up for a driver’s ed class. They also said it’s good for younger kids to have that full year of driving.

At the time, my youngest was chomping at the bit to drive. She was constantly bugging my husband and me to let her drive at 14. We always told her no, but she kept at us. I thought, “Great! I have one daughter who wants to voluntarily drive.” When she turned 15, I signed her up.

Now I’ll digress a bit here. There is a new generation of kids who just don’t want to drive. I don’t know if we’ve spoiled them, but when my oldest was reluctant to drive I finally asked her why. She replied, “Because you always take me everywhere.” I think I signed her up for driver’s ed the next day. So I was pretty thrilled my youngest wanted to drive.

Fast forward a year. My oldest is indeed driving, but my youngest, after her year of opportunity to drive has maybe logged three hours in the car outside of her driver’s ed instruction. I can count on one hand how many times she’s been out driving and I wouldn’t use up all my fingers.

They partnered her driver’s ed class up for the instructional drives. She was partnered with the only other girl in the class, who was almost 18 and very anxious to get her license. Because she was almost 18, she would not have to wait the legal six months with her permit before she got her license.

What should have been a much more leisurely driving instruction schedule only took about three weeks. Compare that to my oldest who started taking the instructional drives sometime in August and took her last big drive to Seattle with her sister and driving partner in October.

They would drive on Saturday and then again on Sunday with no practice in between. While this may have been fine and dandy for an almost 18-year old, it was traumatic for my just 15-year old who had only driven a couple times before the instruction started. After her traumatic experiences I had to cajole her into the car with her father for the maybe-three hours they did get in this past year.

Driving with her father – that brings up another issue. It’s great having dad as the dedicated parent with whom you are practicing when you don’t actually want to drive, because he would come home after a  hard day’s work and not even think about it. I have a lot of other things going on in my head and I wouldn’t think about until it was too late. I had been banished from driving practice.

When I would drive with my youngest, using my stern, no-nonsense, instructional voice, she would cry, “Quit yelling at me!” Then we would start yelling at each other over whether I had been yelling at her. I washed my hands of it and handed the task over to her father who is much calmer with his passive-aggressive ways. But now that we are coming up on her 16th birthday, I informed her that if she doesn’t practice and her permit has to be renewed, I wouldn’t be paying for it. She agreed with my reasoning.

It’s one thing if she’s been practicing and doesn’t feel ready. It’s another if she’s not ready because she hasn’t been practicing. OK, what it comes down to is I’m angry.

So I took charge. She wanted to go to the movies with a friend last weekend. I told her I’d take them if she drove to her friend’s house, but she had to understand I’m not going to be warm and fuzzy while my 15-year is driving me around town. She’d have to find another way to deal with her perception of my voice.

I braced myself as I climbed in the car with her. I directed her to down the road and towards her friend’s house. She exclaims, “I think I like driving with you instead of dad!”


“Because you tell me where to go and Dad just says, “I guess, if you want, maybe you could turn here.”

“Well, we are actually going somewhere, not just randomly driving around for instruction.”

“Still, I like to be told where to turn. I can’t make those kinds of decisions when I’m concentrating on driving.”

I get that. When questioned, Dad told me they should be able to make those decisions when they are just driving around. I told him, they don’t even know what city they are in when they are so focused on maneuvering the car. Driving may have come naturally to my husband, but it hasn’t to his daughters and come to think of it, it didn’t come naturally to me either. They do start making decisions after they are comfortable with the car. My oldest, after driving on her own for seven months, is finally going out and finding places on her own; following directions, getting lost, redirecting herself.

Now I am the designated driving instructor. We drove to the high school the other day, drove almost home, decided to go to Costco, drove to Costco, drove home. Today we have to go do a scavenger hunt-type project with her friends. She’ll drive to the first friend’s house at least. I’ll take over from there so they can discuss their project. She’s a really good driver for as little time as she’s been in the car. I have to admit, even though I was bummed when she re-delegated the driving instruction back to me, feeling like I’m always the one to take care of things as it is, I’ve been having fun. She’s a talker like me and we’ve begun to solve the world’s problems as we know them while we are driving.

I said to her, “I don’t know if you changed or I changed, but this is a lot of fun now.” She said, “Oh, it’s me, I’ve changed a lot.”

But really, I think we’ve both grown up in this past year.


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