Mom to Mom
Driving with My Son
Taking the passenger seat is not always easy
When I was a teenager I taught a bunch of chicks how to drive a stick shift in my powder-blue Volkswagen Beetle.
I was cool.
I was such a good driver that all my friends wanted me to teach ’em how to shift gears. I understood the perils of this rite of passage because when my dad taught me, he’d sit in the passenger seat and chant, “Don’tpoptheclutchdon’tpoptheclutch … DO NOT POP THE-“
The car would lurch forward and stall. Oops.
“Why did you pop the clutch?” My dad would ask, his eyes lifted to the sky.
I told my dad to relax.
I was cool.
Since I was cool at 16 (and had taught other 16-year-olds how to drive), now, at 38, I was looking forward to driving with my own 16-year-old son. He had completed driver’s ed and has to drive with his parents for 50 hours in order to move to the next “independent” level.
“Well, son, here are the keys,” I say as I get in the passenger seat. My son sits behind the wheel for the first time. I feel like the cool mom, and am sure that my guidance will be benevolent. I will gently guide him. I will encourage and instill confidence. My coolness will ease him into mastery of this new driving responsibility. My assured directives will ensure his safe passage. I am the Zen at the center of my son’s initiation into vehicular adulthood.
This is a classic case of me not knowing myself. At all.
The Son pulls out into traffic and I scream, “SHOLY HIT!”
The Son slams on the brakes.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU CAN NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF A TURN!”
He begins again.
“TURN THE WHEEL! MORE! YOU’RE GOING TO HIT THE MAILBOX!”
Did they not teach him the concept of staying in his lane?
“Mom, I’m not going to…” he calmly reasons with me. At this point I grab the wheel. I gasp, grab and scream – a dozen more times until we get home.
The next time, the boy’s father has a go. Let him handle it.
“So, how did he do?” I ask smugly, as the Husband returns calm and nonchalant.
“Fine. He did well.”
“How many times did you have to grab the wheel?” I ask, nodding knowingly.
“None,” he said. “Why are you grabbing the wheel?”
So…for the next outing, the Son drives the car, the Husband relaxes in the passenger seat, and I am relegated to the back.
“HE’S GOING TO GO IN THE DITCH!” I scream while shaking my husband’s headrest.
Son and Husband look back at me from the front as if I have blurted something ridiculous like, “I LOVE THAT SQUIRREL’S PAJAMA PANTS!”
“He’s fine. You need to simmer down,” my husband shoots back at me. The two refocus on the task of driving us to the movie rental place.
“AGH!” I gasp. This time, I am sure he is going to swerve into oncoming traffic. But again the Son and Husband show no signs of distress or recognition of impending doom.
Apparently, I’m the only one with a clear-eyed grasp of mortality.
A few days go by, and we’re out, once again, on the highway. They put me in the backseat with a scarf over my head and my fingers jammed in my ears. I am instructed to hum. I do.
The Son does just fine on the highway. We arrive at our destination surprisingly alive. As I understand, it had been a peaceful drive. But since I remained in my makeshift sensory deprivation tank, we might have plowed through a legion of squirrels in pajamas, for all I know.
If anyone knows where we can buy a “Student Rider” sticker to tape over my mouth, let me know. And if you see me riding around town bound and gagged in the backseat, don’t worry; I’m cool.
Rebecca Regnier is an award-winning television news anchor and mother of two from Toledo,Ohio. Laugh with her as she contributes to the dieting humor blog, Does This Blog Make Us Look Fat?