“You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they’re going.” (P.J. O’Rourke)
Here is my method for dealing with teenage driving angst:
1. Find the nearest baby or toddler.
2. Hold them close and never let them go.
Not very helpful, am I?
Sorry. Letting go is not my strong suit.
Unfortunately, my 15-year-old is growing up whether I like it or not, and holding him close is not an option. (I try. He squirms.) This is the way it has to be, though! Give them roots then give them wings.
Still. Do we really have to let them learn to drive? In a car? On an actual road?
(Unfortunately for this momma’s over-caffeinated heart, the answer is yes.)
I have three bullet points of advice for you:
- Invoke the Angels.
- Have them drive as much as possible, even [yikes] on the freeway.
- Read this book.
1. Invoke the Angels, every single time. You might think that I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Every time we get into the car, whether it be for a trip to the library, the grocery store, or their grandparents, we invoke the guardian angels.
I make the sign of the cross and call out, “Holy guardian angels…”
And the kids respond, “Watch over us!”
We have done this for so many years that it’s become second nature. In fact, if something goes wrong as we’re driving along–if, for example, we hit a patch of ice–the first words out of my mouth are “HolyGuardianAngelsWatchOverUs!”
And they do. I have the stories to prove it. (See #2 .)
2. Have your teen drive as much as possible. This one might be obvious but it’s also hard, especially when it comes to driving on the freeway. Truly, my heart was gripped with fear at the very thought. Then my husband suggested that Joe accompany me on my 4:00 a.m. holy hour and that, my friend, was an inspired idea. It’s a 30-minute drive each way but there is next to no traffic. Bonus points for an extra hour spent in prayer with his mom. : )
This was all it took for me to get over my fear. He is now driving our big white barge to Mass, which means driving in heavy traffic and learning the ins & outs of merging. My husband sits next to him on these outings and (more or less calmly) talks him through it.
And you know what? The kid is doing great. There was one incident where he took an exit ramp too fast (you can bet I loudly invoked the angels) but he kept his hands on the wheel and didn’t over-correct.
3. Read the book Crash-Proof Your Kids. I highly HIGHLY recommend it. The author gives sound advice from a qualified perspective; he himself is a father of three, but has also interviewed driving instructors, psychologists, professional racers, paramedics, safety experts, parents and teens. He is a certified driving instructor and hey, why not, he even became a licensed racing-car driver.
(I think I’ll stick that one in my bucket list.)
In his opinion, the way that we learned to drive doesn’t cut it anymore. Our teens “face far more dangers on the road than we did: snarled rush-hour traffic, road rage, multiple distractions, and increased mind-altering substances.” Learning to drive, he believes and I agree, is “the single most dangerous thing your teenager will do while under your care,” and the strategies in his book are meant to make our teens better, safer drivers.
Holy guardian angels, watch over us. Holy guardian angels, watch over them.