Teen Driving: Driver's Ed is Nothing like Kindergarten

Teen Driving: Driver's Ed is Nothing like Kindergarten
Does this bumper sticker make me look older?

My teen is driving. Well, she is not technically driving at this moment nor has she actually driven a real motorized vehicle. However, she will be driving. Soon.

She turned 15 last October, and I stopped sleeping anticipating her request: Mama, can I take Driver's Ed? But she never asked. I never offered. I started sleeping once more.

The question finally came one mild winter day: Mama, when can I take Driver's Ed?

My heart stopped, sweat pooled in unflattering places. I felt dizzy. I pretended I didn't hear her.

It was a long winter and spring as she continued to ask: Mama, will you please sign me up for Driver's Ed?

I tried to prepare myself and muster the courage to register her. I've visualized her successfully changing lanes on an expressway, waiting patiently at a crosswalk for sweet-faced little children to cross, parallel parking with such ease and grace that witnesses applaud.

Each morning as I wipe the dried tears off my face, I calmly lie to my haggard reflection that driver's education class and teen driving are simply milestones to celebrate . . . like Kindergarten.

Yes, I lie to myself, Driver's Ed is exactly like Kindergarten: I'll weep a few tears, take some pictures to document it and smile as she merrily skips over to her classmates while waving her permit in her hand.

Her first Driver's Ed class was Monday.

Driver's Ed is NOTHING like Kindergarten:

1. In Kindergarten, she learned strangers were scary. Don't talk to strangers. Never take candy from strangers. Don't help strangers look for lost puppies. NEVER get in a car with a stranger!

10 years later, I'm dropping her off at a nondescript storefront in a strip mall and encouraging her to get in a car with a stranger!

2. Each day of Kindergarten was easier. She came home smiling and chattering about her day. I celebrated and basked in her happiness.

When I pick her up from Driver's Ed, it terrifies me when she talks about her teacher or classmates. Is she too focused on others and not paying attention to her teacher? Are the teen boys too cute? Are the teen girls too fashionable? Is she learning anything at all?

3. While I was nervous about her Kindergarten experience, I took comfort in her successful 3 years of preschool.

The only experience my teen has with driving is years of playing Mario Cart and Grand Theft Auto. I wish I had never watched/played those games with her. Note to self: Bananas are now banned from our house.

4. I lost weight when she was in Kindergarten because I finally had the time to workout.

I'll surely gain weight now that my teen is driving. I can't take anxiety meds nor drink wine while she is driving the car with me. Food is my only option, and chewing on celery just ain't gonna work! I'm going to get fat. Really fat.

5. Kindergarten worst case scenario: My daughter cuts her hair with safety scissors and smears paste on another classmate.

Driver's Ed worst case scenario: She dies in a fiery crash!

Experienced Parents: How did you cope when your teen started driving? What advice do you have for me? Should I invite her teacher over for dinner before he takes her driving? Then, he's not a stranger, right? Is it okay to fingerprint, collect a blood sample and run a full background check on the driver's ed instructors and teen students she will be driving with?

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