Baby you can drive my car… I think

Handing the car keys over to my 16 year-old is one of the most difficult parenting moments I have yet to encounter.

Putting her on a 10 hour flight as an unaccompanied minor had caused me angst and kept me awake until she set foot back on familiar soil but this is different.

young smiling woman sitting in car taking key

When I was almost 17 I took my driver’s test in my small hometown. The test was thorough and incorporated the skills required by the Ministry – this was all accomplished by approaching the single traffic light in town from different angles.  No joke. I passed. My parents set one expectation: no night driving for two weeks. Beyond that it was full speed ahead (no pun intended).

The rules are different now. There is graduated licensing. Thankfully. My 16 year-old self would not have liked this, but my 47 year-old self is saying yippee! It is designed to give new drivers time to practice driving and gain experience before becoming independent drivers.

I know. I know. I did it. In time I learned how to be the driver I am today. She will too.
But 30 years later and 236 km away, in Ontario’s fastest growing community, life is a different pace. People seem busier, are commuting farther and frustrations are evident. I see it every day. Everyone is in a hurry. There is also a new kid in town… the cell phone.

I trust her to do the best that she can. But I cannot get it out of my mind that I need to trust in the good faith of others. Will people be kind as she continues on her learning curve? Decision making will take a few seconds to process. Will there be patience in the vehicle behind her when she pauses as the light turns green or will they honk in frustration?

As with many things in life, I have to remind myself that we cannot control the actions of others, only our own.

Having a soon-to-be new driver in the house has made me a different driver. I try not to assume the person who cut me off is trying to beat me in a race to be first to the stop light. Perhaps they too are a new driver; maybe they are enduring a painful time in life and are preoccupied with thoughts of a sick loved one. Maybe, just maybe, they really truly did not know that the lane was ending when they cut in front of me at the last minute.

Driving blog.png

My daughter is watching me. Knowing and following the rules of the road is a big part of it, but it is only a part. I try to role model courtesy, kindness and patience. My phone stays in my purse to avoid the temptation of responding to a text, I drive within the posted speed limit, I never drink and drive and we talk. I discuss the purposefulness of these actions with her. Setting ground rules like curfew, the expectation to update me if plans change and a no-questions-asked-that-night policy should she call me to pick her up for any reason, to name a few.

Ultimately, I want her to get home safe.

Through this self-reflection I think I have come to a better acceptance of the milestone. I (with the Ministry of Transportation!) have prepared her the best that we can.

The other night she mentioned she was meeting a friend for ice cream. When I asked how she was getting there she replied, “He is going to see if he can get the car”.

<record scratch> Wait a minute. Other kids will be driving HER places?

I hadn’t thought about that!
Excuse me… I think I need to go do some more self-reflection… or maybe breathe into a paper bag.

How did your teen becoming a driver affect you? Share with us, we would love to hear from you.

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Nicole O'Donnell, RN

Hi! I have been working as a nurse supporting children and their families in acute care, clinic settings and now in public health for over 20 years. As a mother of 4 girls I am walking the walk and talking the talk – from early elementary to high school; life is never dull! I am so thrilled to be connecting with all of you and look forward to sharing this parenting journey together!
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2 Responses to Baby you can drive my car… I think

  1. Janet Siverns says:

    When our teens became drivers, my husband and I swallowed our anxiety (all right, it was me more than him), and encouraged them to drive as much as possible when they were living under So if I needed to run to the grocery store to get milk? Return a book to the library? Take the dog to the dog park? Check, check, check: ur kids were behind the wheel. We let our kids know we trusted them (because that helps build confidence) and made suggestions (gently) for improving driving skills. And while our kids had a generous curfew, our car did not – it had to be in the driveway by 11:00 pm when they were learning to drive.

    • So glad to hear I am not alone Janet! You make some great suggestions — teen driving doesn’t just equal a car full of friends driving to a party ;). I love the idea of taking those every day, local opportunities to get the experience to learn and gain the confidence they (and I!) need. Thank you!

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