When your Kids take the Wheel – the Nail Biting Begins

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1936 Ford Coupe

Remember when you learned how to drive? Was it via a Driver’s Education Class or through the help of a husband, father or mother? A Sibling?

My Dad drove miles every day to work to provide for our family. He was extremely proud of his Chevrolet; the only brand he would buy. He wouldn’t allow his three daughters to drive, let alone take driving lessons. He flatly refused by calling his car his “only means of livelihood.”

My boyfriend, who later became my husband, taught me how to drive in his 1936 black Ford coupe. I had never driven a stick shift before and kept getting the clutch and the gas pedal mixed up. We drove on small country dirt roads, but when we came to the first intersection, I faced a strip of black asphalt piled at least four feet high down the middle of the cross road.

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My friend shouted for me to break, but I hit the gas pedal instead, and we sailed right over the top of that obstacle at 35 miles per hour. I hit my head on the roof light and cracked its plastic plate. We flew through the air and landed safely on the opposite side of the pile. Amazingly, we continued our driving lesson on the other side. I learned the importance of focus and concentration. Soon I was able to keep the three pedals straight and figured out how to use them.

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My oldest daughter took Driver’s Ed, and drove with her dad or me until she finally got her license. I was a parent chaperone on a high school field trip when she drove the car. There were four other girls with us. Pam had difficulty concentrating with the noise and chatter in the car. There were a few close calls as we manipulated the city streets.

images (15)When we got close to our destination, she pulled into the wrong side street. Everyone was yelling at her to turn around and go back. She was flustered, distracted, and confused. I was shouting my own instructions to watch out for that man crossing the street at an angle toward her, but she didn’t hear me.

She pulled over to the curb just as he was reaching almost the same point. He literally arched his back over the hood of the car as his feet jumped up on the curb.

To this day I can still see him back bending over the front of the car with a shocked look on his face; his feet way ahead of him. That he remained upright is a miracle in and of itself; that she didn’t hit him was another. He looked just like a character from a Wily Coyote – Road Runner cartoon.

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Pam was completely oblivious to what was happening. According to Driver’s Ed statistics. 50% of teens are in an accident the first year they start driving. How parents ever survive teaching their children how to navigate a car especially in traffic is a wonder. Waiting patiently for them to return safely from an errand or an evening out is nerve wracking, to say the least. And how to describe the feeling when the whir of the engine finally pulls into the driveway? sweet relief!

There were no cell phones back then. Parents dreaded their home phone to ring when their older children were out somewhere. It could mean anything from running out of gas, sliding on the ice into a tree, or locking themselves out of the car. Heaven forbid if it was anything more serious. I remember well the familiar cringe when the phone rang.

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When they were all home, the phone was constantly ringing. Because we had a large family, limits had to be placed on how long anyone could stay on the phone. The girls would run for the phone at the first ring convinced the call was for them.

I worked at home as a free-lance writer and consultant in addition to holding leadership roles in my community and church and needed to use the phone often, as did their father who had many responsibilities as a Boy Scout Leader and volunteer at our church. Believe me, we kept the wires hot. How we endured one phone is mind boggling.

In my adult life, I’ve always had a telephone phobia. I resent the interruptions when the telephone rings during dinner or at the climax of my favorite T.V. show. I don’t like to talk to people without seeing them (and their reactions). I dislike calling for assistance and getting an artificial computer voice that requires me to push buttons until they finally push me out the other end. It never occurred to me why I have this phobia. Now, looking back, I say is it any wonder?download

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