The moment I've been dreading has arrived: my firstborn child is behind the wheel. And it's not a Hot Wheel, but a Honda Odyssey wheel.
His permit is still crisp and unwrinkled, but already, he's having to learn that drivers are rude and impatient. After a couple of days circling around a giant parking lot (where, I confess, had visions of him barreling over the curb and into the nearby forest preserve), I let him drive in our little suburban neighborhood.
Admittedly, the kid doesn't motor fast. He putt-putts along somewhere between idling and 15 mph. But he's, you know, LEARNING.
He's had to learn fast, too, that the rules of the road should include a chapter on keeping your cool while surrounded by jerks. Like the one who was tailing our van so closely that were a squirrel to dart in front of us, we'd be on the hotline to State Farm.
"Mom, this guy is like right up on me", my son said, his hands gripped tightly at 10 and 2. "What do I do?"
"Stay at 18 to 20 miles an hour and just keep going. You can't worry about him. Always look in front of you, not behind," I replied, knowing full well that I spend plenty of time shaking my fist at tailgaters behind me even when I'm going OVER the speed limit.
My poor son is only like three blocks along in our outing when the tailgater behind him starts flashing his lights. (Really, a-hole? We're on a tree-lined residential street.)
I tell him to turn, and, hand-over-hand-over-hand later, I let him know that he can't get too rattled by idiot impatient drivers, because they are all over the roads, all the time.
A block later, it happens again. Apparently, my son is taking too long to go past the intersection while this lady is waiting at a stop sign. She lays on the horn.
"I think I want to go home now," says my boy.
"Buddy, this is how it works, and the sooner you figure out how to deal with rude drivers, the better off you'll be," I tell him, in my best Patient and Wise Mother voice, while I know full well that I would have preferred to give that woman and the tailgater guy the full one-finger salute and an added "WTF!" if I could.
Instead, I actually went online to order something I've always joked about when I saw on other people's cars: the sticker that reads, "Patience, please: student driver."
God help us both.
So...I have to ask: do you have any stories of teaching your kids to drive defensively, when there are more impatient buttheads on the road than ever before? Or do you recall when you were first learning to drive, how you dealt with tailgaters, beepers and the like?
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