Stop! In the Name of Love: Behind the Wheel with your Teenager


behind the wheelA child’s miraculous growth is a subject of wonder for all mothers. It begins with pregnancy and charges forth in a flurry of firsts: First time sleeping through the night, first birthday, first steps, first words, the first day of school and the first time behind the wheel. And I’m not talking about the Big Wheel at Walmart. This one has four tires and a transmission.

It’s my car.

No longer considered by my 16-year-olds as a necessary tool of backseat transport, but now as an object of desire. What they see is the themselves behind the wheel in the ultimate freedom ride; what I see is lost sleep.

I’ve tried so hard, hard to be patient
Hoping you’d stop this infatuation
But each time you are together
I’m so afraid I’ll be losing you forever

Stop! In the name of love
Before you break my heart
Think it over
Think it over

To make matters worse, I get to be the driving instructor! Who knew?

I thought it was a guy thing.

All those mommy-bonding talks about breastfeeding, toilet training, adolescence angst, and even sending your firstborn to college, and I’ve never heard a word uttered that mothers are the true road warriors. It makes sense. As a friend of mine astutely pointed out, we are the ones that take care of our children on a daily basis—we feed and clothe them, help with homework, set up play dates, and yes, chauffeur them around town—so why not also teach them to drive in our (free) time?

Can it be that bad?

Yes, it can. And there is a reason no one talks about it. Fear-induced amnesia. The first time my son got behind the wheel with me riding shotgun, I began to hyperventilate. I actually stopped breathing when he started to turn left into a string of oncoming cars, and then I’m pretty sure I passed out. While my son is amassing minutes towards the 40 supervised prerequisite hours, I’m getting a headache calculating insurance costs and the replacement value of my 2003 Lexus. Not to mention my life and the life of my children. But, hey, details.

Have a drink

My teenagers don’t miss a beat when it comes to a driving opportunity. Recently their eyes lit up when I asked for a glass of wine while out for dinner. I couldn’t grasp this newfound enthusiasm for a cocktail until I realized they had just become my designated drivers. Now they encourage me to drink all the time. And in return, I’ve actually convinced them that going to the orthodontist—or having their wisdom teeth pulled—is fun as long as they are driving.

Slow down, I mean it!

 You are going too fast. Just yesterday you learned to ride a bike. The day before you learned to walk. You still don’t know how to use a microwave or boil water.  Motherhood is an often painful incremental process of letting go.  I can only hope this phase will be gone in a blink(er) of an eye.