Yesterday I was driving with my 18 year old son who is in the process of getting his drivers license. He was behind the wheel as we drove from our home in Cherry Valley to Cobleskill, where one of our family owned business’, Fit To Be Tied Yoga, is based. My son is going through a very necessary phase in his life of becoming independent. He takes this step in his development very seriously indeed! He caught on quickly when he started to learn how to drive. Especially when I insisted (as I did with all my 6 children when it was their time to drive) that he learn on a standard (stick shift) automobile. At first he balked, he squirmed, he retaliated, he hated it! But, I stood my ground telling him, “I guarantee, not only will you get this down, but when you do you will prefer it to an automatic transmission. And you will be an exception to the rule in this area, since I will bet dollars to donuts that none of your friends will know how to drive a stick.”

He seemed up for the challenge after that. We practiced on the  back roads going from “town” to home in Cherry Valley and back again the next day. We live in a very rural area in the country. Heck, just yesterday my husband was online and I was in the kitchen  making dinner when he announces, “did you know that Cherry Valley has less than 600 people in it?” I mean, I knew we lived in the country with wide open spaces and beautiful vistas and farm land galore. But, really? Less than 600? Anyway, last fall we practiced his driving skills every time we drove home or to town, being careful to “listen to the engine…”  At first, he thought I was nuts. “What are we listening for?  It sounds like any other engine and what the heck do you mean the transmission is telling me to change gears!?”  At that point we would pull off to the side of the road and start over, listening very carefully for all the sounds of the engine, the transmission and the revving sounds the gas pedal makes when you ask the right questions of the car.  And when you don’t. Teaching my kids to drive at this fruitful age has been something I have always treasured.  You  have to first of all realize that at this stage of their development they have a strong stance in the “I already know that!” attitude. So, when I get to be in the driver’s seat literally and physically for a change I jump at the chance. And, I got to do it 6 times already!  I remember learning to drive when I was a teen.  Let me tell you, it was not a good experience.  My boyfriend at the time was willing to “show me the ropes”.  I  learned on an automatic.  Sure, I made mistakes, and he made sure I knew all about it at a decibal level that rivals some of the sound coming out of a Zumba class!  I guess he felt that intimidation and humor at my expense was the best way to get the point across. Needless to say, I decided not to go that route with my children.  We had plenty of time to practice, we had fun and laughed (he whined a bit) but after all was said and done, he looked forward to his time behind the wheel.  He did ask his friends if they could drive a stick. They couldn’t. I told him if he could drive a stick, he could drive anything. I think what he heard was “Farm chores!” and what he probably pictured was something like this:

  But, we were off and running! He was going to perfect “listening to the transmission” and began to have compassion and a new understanding for the mechanical horse beneath us. 

First gear was the bane of his existence for all of about 3 weeks before he got it down. He would get it one time and feel confident, and then we would pull over and try again and he wouldn’t have it.  I told him over and over, “you have to pay very close attention to everything! The pressure on the gas, the pressure on the clutch, the balance between the two, the sound of the transmission, the amount of gas you give it has a sound too.  Practice listening and do it over and over until you are one with the whole car (Zen Mom coming to the surface!) and when you do, it will become second nature to you.”  He didn’t believe me, and that is when I would get behind the wheel and show him how it was done.  Motherhood at it’s finest!  I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to teach a skill to a youngster who can’t wait to get out on his own and away from the people who are unjustly holding him hostage!  I saw that spark of recognition in his eyes, the adrenalin in him rose to meet my challenge.  We were on!  He took the wheel again, and we practiced until he got it. He got it on straight roads, he got it going up hills, and he got it going around curves. He still takes his turns on curvy roads like he forgot where the brake pedal is, but he always remarks during those times, “yeah, I know, I could have done that better.”  I decided long ago that yelling at the new driver was not the way to go and it paid off!  He was a calm, adjusted driver, while I tried hard not to show him my white knuckled grip on the door handle.   We were about to slide backwards into a car behind us as we were coming to a stop on a steep incline, last fall, and I heard myself calmly stating, “You’re doing fine, you just need to give it a little more gas…”  As we chugged up to the stop sign and took our turn looking both ways.

That was last year.  Now, we are just about ready to take our driver’s test except for one little part, parallel parking. That dreaded word in every new driver’s vocabulary.  We set up barrels outside the house yesterday and he practiced backing into the space we figured was about right.  It was pouring rain and he used that fact to further delay this challenge.  I gave my standard answer, ” All the better, if you can do it in pouring rain, you will be that much more prepared!” He scowled, but continued to practice.  My husband and I were there as curbside cheerleaders.  He practiced parking in front of the house, and later that afternoon in town on a quiet side street with official parallel parking markings.  Of course, we didn’t want to practice parking between 2 cars, we looked for a place where he could back up behind a car with 2 empty spaces behind for plenty of wiggle room. After 2 tries, he was successful!  I asked him if he would like to do it again.  “Nope, I want to end my day on a happy note!”.  So, we went home.  On the way home through the back country roads at sunset he spotted a deer before I did. ( a very good sign indeed).  He said, “Oh deer!  Where there’s one, there’s more!  That’s what I’ve always heard.”  I don’t remember teaching him that, but maybe I did! ;0) 

Now, do I really want him to drive my classic  convertible  instead of the beat up old family Subaru he learned to drive in going to work this summer as a life guard ?

You bet I do!!!!