Teen driving is a scary milestone and one that is tough for parents to navigate. I am not a parenting expert by any means. I flounder. I stumble. I mess up. But I thought, if I share with you how we’ve handled it, maybe it will help you. Even better would be to start a conversation. Be a support system for one another. Be a sounding board. Be a resource. Since babies do not come with an instruction manual, and it’s not a one size fits all, we can only rely on one another to help us deal with the issues we face as parents.
Putting a 15 year old (that’s the permit age in Florida) behind the wheel of a 4000 pound piece of machinery is very frightening. 15! I think back to when I was 15. I thought I was so mature. When I look at 15 year olds today, I think, “No way. Way too young”. But they can. And they do. We get to guide them. Sit next to them. Teach them. There is always an adult with them during that first year. Then they turn 16 and they are on their own.
The first time my son drove off the driveway with my daughter as his passenger, I thought to myself, “There goes my whole world. My whole world is in that car. It may only seat 5 people, but that car holds my everything”. Frightening. Scary. Nauseating. It’s a feeling like I’ve never experienced before. And until you have a first time driver, you truly can’t imagine the rawness of that emotion.
So what do you do when they start driving alone? What rules to you put in place? What do you allow? What do you not allow? This is the conversation that we need to have to help one another.
Now that my son is driving, I’ve had moms reach out to me before they let their own child ride with him and ask, “What kind of a driver is your son?”. Do not be offended at this question. These moms have said they feel silly. They’ve said they feel bad for asking this question. I don’t see it that way. Making sure your child is about to get into a car with a safe driver is NOT being a bad mom or silly. That is being a mom. A good mom.
We did not allow our son to take any friends with him during his first 3 months of driving. We did not allow him to be a passenger until his friend(s) had been driving for at least 6 months. Thankfully, the state sets a curfew so we didn’t have to worry about that one. We went over all the rules you’d expect: No distracted driving, no speeding, be alert, wear a seat belt, be a defensive driver: We trust you until you give us a reason not to. But when they get behind that wheel for the first time, all alone? You panic. You hope they listened. You pray they remember.
No matter how old my children are, I will always be nervous when they get behind the wheel. Things happen. Accidents happens. I try not to overthink it. I give my children their freedom. It’s their rite of passage. It’s part of growing up. But I do not fully exhale until I hear the car pull safely onto the driveway.
So as you enter these uncharted waters, don’t be afraid to ask the questions. Inquire. Have the conversation. Articulate your concerns. Be that good mom. And when you get asked the same question I do, don’t be offended. Answer it honestly. At least today we have technology with the ability to keep tabs on our children’s driving. I can’t even imagine how my parents dealt with it before that existed!