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Published May 06, 2013, 11:30 PM

Parenting Perspectives: New drivers in the house humble mom

“Just wait until they start driving.” I’ve been hearing forever. But we took more time than most to get started. When our oldest realized we weren’t trading in our two minivans for a brand-new red Porsche, his interest in the whole driving thing waned.

By: Roxane B. Salonen, INFORUM

“Just wait until they start driving.” I’ve been hearing forever.

But we took more time than most to get started. When our oldest realized we weren’t trading in our two minivans for a brand-new red Porsche, his interest in the whole driving thing waned.

We began to worry recently that he may never leave the house, however, so we nudged him over to the Department of Transportation one afternoon. Within a week’s time, all the buildup ended, and our oldest two kids had both procured their permits.

Let this be a warning to all: the Salonen kids have hit the road.

Though our oldest remains fairly unenthused, the next in line has taken to the wheel like a mouse to Swiss cheese.

“Can I drive, please?” she says, clapping her hands. When I nod yes, she grabs the keys from me and runs to take over the spot I’ve occupied all her life until now.

It’s a bit disconcerting for a mother to find herself in the passenger seat of her child-driven vehicle. Just a couple days ago, it seems, I looked through the rearview mirror at her infant car seat to see baby toes peeking out the other end.

The reversal of roles feels a bit unnatural, not to mention wholly humbling.

But here we are on the cusp of the real world. And off we go, ready or not, into the dangers of real-time traffic with a quiet prayer we’ll make it back alive.

For those parents who have yet to enter the teen driving zone, take heed. The faint of heart need not apply.

I didn’t realize all I’ve come to take for granted since I first began driving our little beige Chevy Chevette on the back roads of northeast Montana 30 years ago.

Like the training it takes for a foot to find its way gracefully from the accelerator to the brake and back again.

Can you say whiplash?

Adding to that, the kid most motivated to master this driving thing happens to be left-handed, and I can tell you from watching her that learning to drive as a lefty in a right-handed world ain’t easy.

“Turn right here,” I say.

“Okay,” she answers.

“No not that right, the other right….right, that one!”

Screech.

I’ve also been reminded that discerning the slow-down speed before a turn doesn’t come naturally.

Oh, hi there oncoming driver. We really weren’t meaning to come that close your vehicle, promise.

Not to mention how intricate the art of wheel-turning can be.

“You probably don’t have to crank it quite that hard, Honey,” I say, silently hyperventilating as I untangle myself from the passenger door.

The lefty issue will adjust itself in time, I’m sure. But her petite 5-foot-1-inch frame presents some issues, especially when she doesn’t readjust the seat after her turn at the wheel.

Let’s just say I become one with the dashboard, challenged to figure out how to wrench my arm backward while groping blindly for the seat adjustor with my nose pressed against the windshield.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. In reality, I’m pretty proud of our new driver and amazed at how much progress she’s made in her short time on the road. Each passing driving session, the white of my knuckles turns more pink, and fewer utterances of “Watch out for that…” slip out.

If we can just work out how to back up from the house straight enough to avoid knocking out the mailbox at the end of the driveway, we should be good to go.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children. She blogs on family life at http://peacegardenmama.areavoices.com

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