(Bitter) Sweet 16: The Bumpy Road to a Driver's License

Young girl with driver's license

After nine months, lots of tears and hours of practice driving, my daughter finally got her license!

Trust me, this has been no easy task. I’ve documented the trials and tribulations of teaching a teen to drive throughout the last several months – from permit to driver’s test. From the very first time she got behind the wheel in the church parking lot to the day she passed her test, I have been a bag of nerves. Not that any of that will change, though. Now I just get to experience the anxiety every single day.

The driving test

The driving test is a nerve-racking experience for parents, let alone 16-year-olds. First, there’s the parallel parking thing. (In Pennsylvania, you park first; if you don’t pass that, you don’t even go out on the road to drive.)

After a lot of practice, my daughter Maddi perfected the parking. That was not the problem the first time she took the test. The problem was that she left the parking lot and went to a stop sign. She was used to pulling up close to the stop sign so that she could see if traffic was coming. Well, there is a white line behind which you must stop. She didn’t see the line and pulled up too far. The instructor called that “rolling” the stop sign, and it was an automatic fail. A lot of tears ensued.

I made an appointment online for the second test a month later. We spent the next month doing more driving/practicing. This test time, Maddi also perfected her parking and then went on to Peach Street,a busy six-lane highway with several different plazas along both sides of the road. Just before turning left into one of these plazas, she apparently changed lanes but didn’t look in her mirror. (She vehemently denies this, by the way.)

Fortunately, the lane was clear. The instructor told me that he makes a point of looking at the teens to see if they are using their mirrors.

Another infraction:As she was traveling through an intersection, the light turned yellow—putting her in that awkward place where you’re trying to decide if you should gun it or stop. Yeah, she didn’t gun it, nor did she stop. She just sort of coasted out into the middle of the intersection, stopped and then went.

She failed. A lot more tears ensued. (“What am I supposed to do now?” she cried. To which I replied: “The same thing you’ve always done. I’ll still take you to work and anywhere you need to go. This isn’t the end of the world.”) I’m just guessing, but I bet that boys who fail don’t have this same reaction.

So it was back home to wipe up the tears and schedule the third test the following month. At this point, I told her we are going up and down Peach Street and driving in and out of every plaza around so she can get used to all these lanes and turning. Because I admit, sometimes it is confusing knowing which lane to be in.

She practiced… and practiced…and practiced. By the day of the test, I was feeling 150 percent confident that she was going to pass. She was still nervous, but felt prepared. As I predicted, she came back in the driver licensing building just beaming.

Yes, my baby earned her license. She earned her freedom. I was happy for her, of course. Yet I was also nervous. But that goes with the territory, right? If you are just embarking on this lovely journey of teaching your teen to drive, good luck.

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