June 20, 2018
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The trials of parents whose children are learning to drive

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

My husband and I have survived the permitting and licensing of two teenage drivers: girls.

I won’t lie to you. It was not fun.

My niece was the first. At the time I wrote a column about the “Young Driver-Parent/Guardian Contract” available on the Secretary of State website.

She had her contractual obligations — no drinking, no drugs, no one else driving my car, no speeding or other dangerous hijinks.

And I, of course, had mine: “I will listen in a respectful manner to explanations or concerns expressed by my young driver regarding the operation of a vehicle or the terms of this contract and I will provide respectful feedback when accompanying my young driver in a motor vehicle.” That was a little more difficult.

I determined that “YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO THE CAR IN FRONT OF YOU! SLOW DOWN!” probably was a violation of the contract.

Oh, sure, we lost a driveway lamppost, had to rescue her and our car from the top of a snowbank on Northeast Drive, and a good hunk of our side yard got pretty dug up when she made a miscalculation while backing out of our driveway — twice.

But we all survived her momentous passage from cheerleader to licensed driver.

A couple of years later, when my daughter was armed with her permit, I questioned why scientists across the globe were finding better ways to do virtually everything, including tracking at-risk penguin colonies by locating and tracking their poop from satellites in space and devising ways for vegetables to call their farmer’s cellphone to let them know when they need to be watered.

Yet here I was in the passenger side of a minivan, traveling down the highway at 65 mph, with a passing tractor-trailer truck a couple of feet to my left and a guardrail a couple of feet to my right, and a nervous 16-year-old with a learner’s permit behind the wheel.

I suggested there should be a better way and that scientists should jump on it right away.

There was, of course, the time when she stomped down hard on the gas pedal instead of the brake, shooting us wildly and in reverse into the middle of the street.

To divert attention away from this little error, she shouted at me for having the nerve to gasp.

And, sure, it was a bit concerning when a few days later she started to drive off with her little brother half in and half out of the car.

While we haven’t had to dig her out of the ditch, the dad of one of her friends did when she made her own miscalculation while backing out of his driveway one night. Thank you, Brian Strout.

But again we survived.

Now we embark on this journey for the third time. This time it’s a boy.

He started driver’s education this week and in no time will have his learner’s permit.

The lamppost at the end of the driveway still stands, but leans precariously into the rhododendron bush, and hasn’t worked since the first time it was whacked all those years ago by our first new driver.

Perhaps another mishap will put it out of its misery for good.

I’m not sure yet whether driving with him through this process will be different than it was with the girls.

But I won’t lie to you.

I became concerned about this earlier in the week when I slowed for a yellow traffic light on Broadway and he said, “Oh, Mom, you so could have made that.”

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