Last night my husband and I took our oldest daughter to a required parent/teen driving meeting. At the meeting they stressed the importance of the parents’ role in teaching your child how to drive safely, as well as, some of the laws and dangers to be aware of. First of all, the presentation was 90 minutes long. That was way too long, in my teacher opinion, for the kids to sit there listening to a driver’s ed. teacher reading from a script. Even I was loosing attention after a while. Second of all, they threw a lot of information and requirements at us so fast that neither my husband nor I are 100% sure of what they all are. It is so much different here than it was back in South Carolina where I grew up. Back then, I could get my permit the day I turned 15 and then was able to get my regular license after 180 days. That means I had my license at the age of approximately 15 and 6 months of age and could drive without an adult. There also were no restrictions on how many underage passengers I could have in the car with me. The only restriction we had was that we couldn’t drive without an adult from 7 PM to 7 AM until we turned 16. There was no driver’s education requirement. You only had to pass a written exam to get your permit and a road test to get your license. I don’t know if the law is still the same down there now or not. Looking back, I am pretty sure that it SHOULDN’T still be the same law! A 15 year old has no business driving a car without an adult, much less with multiple teens in the car. I honestly don’t know how my parents were comfortable with that. Thankfully, where we live now, the requirements are much stricter, and I am very happy about that. You have to be 15 years and 6 months of age before you can even apply for a permit. Once you get your permit, a licensed driver, 21 years or older, must accompany you at all times when driving for the next 9 months. You must complete a driver’s education course, have logged 45 hours of driving experience including nighttime driving experience with a parent or legal guardian, and have held a driving permit for 9 months before you can get your license. That means you have to be at least 16 and 3 months of age before you can even get your license and drive without an adult. Then there are still restrictions once you get your license until you turn 18. You may drive with only one non-family member passenger under the age of 21, and you may not drive between midnight and 4 AM without an adult. Boy am I glad that the law now is so much stricter than it was when I learned to drive. I already cannot imagine turning my kid loose with a car when she is 16, and I certainly can’t imagine it at 15 and a half like I was!
As I was sitting there last night, not only was I thinking about how irresponsible the law was when I learned to drive, but I was also thinking about my daughter’s maturity. She will be 15 and 6 months next month and can get her permit. I am not sure she is ready for that, and I am 100% sure that I am NOT ready for it. You hear it all the time about how fast kids grow up, and it is so true. Just this past Sunday night, we were at a restaurant for dinner and a family with an adorable little girl between one and two years old was sitting in the booth next to us. She had her hair fixed the exact way I used to do my daughter’s hair when she was that age (we used to call it her water spout), and she reminded me so much of my daughter. I think I was annoying my whole family as I couldn’t keep my eyes off the little girl and commenting how much she looked like my daughter. It is so hard to believe that sweet little girl is now this young lady I see before me about to start driving. It seems like yesterday. I honestly don’t know that my daughter is mature enough to drive a car. She has ADHD and is so easily distracted, and her maturity level has always been less than her age in my opinion. I just don’t know if she is responsible enough. I am sure most parents feel this way, though. None of us are really ready for our kids to be behind the wheel, especially in this day and age of cell phones. It’s scary to think about her driving. I am not ready. On the way home from the meeting last night, she asked, “What if I’m not ready?” Part of me is happy to hear that because it is her recognizing the seriousness of driving and maybe knowing that she isn’t mature enough yet. The other part of me is sad that she isn’t as excited about this rite of passage as most kids her age are. I don’t want her to be afraid every time she gets behind the wheel, but I do want her to take it seriously. How do you know if your child is ready, mature, and responsible enough to drive a car? I honestly don’t know. I do think that my husband will be a better judge at that than I am because he can separate his feelings and emotions from the situation much better than I can. I also know that he will not let her drive alone if he doesn’t think she is ready, which does make me feel a little better.
The other debate we had in the car on the way home was who was going to be the one to really teach her how to drive. She says that she wants it to be me because she thinks I will be calmer than her dad. She said she wants “the actual teacher” to teach her how to drive. I honestly don’t want to be the one that does it, though. I will be a nervous wreck and don’t think I would be calm at all. I already don’t like her driving her Pop Pop’s Gator utility vehicle thingy around in the fields when we go visit him. It makes me very nervous. I really think her dad would do a much better job at teaching her than me. He has more patience with those types of things than I do. I can see myself over-reacting and stressing her out by my stress. Maybe a part of me also doesn’t want to do it because it makes this so much more real. I don’t want to accept that we are at this point, and it is time for her to grow up. Regardless of whether or not SHE is ready, I’M not ready. I don’t know that I ever will be ready, though. I just wish she was still that sweet little girl with the water spout on top of her head like the little one at dinner the other night. I wish I could stop time.
Driving is a big deal and it is so dangerous these days, especially with phones and technology. People drive distracted so much more than years ago. I am guilty of it all the time. We all put our lives at risk every time we get behind the wheel. A 16 year old doesn’t have the experience or knowledge to really know how to react in dangerous situations. Let’s also not forget that teens do dumb things all the time. It’s a fact. They are still learning and growing, and their brains are still developing. They make mistakes. It is just a part of the growing process. There was actually a state trooper at the meeting last night that told us 85% of the kids in that room would have a wreck as a teen. That is a scary to think about. I know I will be praying every time she gets behind the wheel in the future. In the meantime, I will pray for my mama heart to accept that this is coming way too fast.
I AM NOT READY!