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Juggling Act

Giving my daughter special driving lessons

My daughter is talking more about learning to drive, and I’m getting more nervous just thinking about it. Friends with older children tell me this is probably the scariest aspect of parenthood– watching your teenage child drive off in a car, alone.

My 16-year-old is signing up for driver’s education classes set to begin in a few weeks at her high school. Meanwhile, I’m practicing how to remain calm when it’s time for her to do her practice driving with me in the passenger’s seat. I’m also developing plans for some classes that she won’t be getting in traditional driver’s education. My father gave me these special classes when I was 16, and I hated them. But she’ll probably look back on the lessons one day, as I do, and be thankful that she got them.

Before my father allowed me to drive alone, he set up three or four classes on Saturday mornings in our driveway. The first was learning how to change a flat tire. It took a while but I finally mastered it and he moved on to basic maintenance skills: how to check the oil and other car fluids, how to check the air in the tires, how to check air filters. He talked to me about the necessity of getting the oil changed regularly and overall car care.

I didn’t like these Saturday sessions at all. A boy I liked lived a few doors up the street and as a teenager, I found it embarrassing to be outside working on a car. But a few years later, I understood the value of my father’s lessons and why he insisted that I do them. While driving to visit my parents one weekend while in college, I had a flat tire. I pulled over to the side of the road and changed it. I can still see my father’s pride when I shared the experience with him.

Over the years, I have relied often on these basic car maintenance skills. For my daughter, I’m going to turn to a mechanic to do the teaching. She’ll grumble, I’m sure. But at least she’ll be inside a garage.



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