Driving Me Crazy

driverLong ago, husband and I determined that, whenever possible, the job of teaching our children would be delegated to professionals.  It’s not that we lack skills, but rather patience.  After several episodes of family meltdown on ski slopes, ice rinks, and swimming pools, we raised the white flag.  Better to preserve an amicable family dynamic than risk damage to our relationships over the breast stroke.  Our plan cost us thousands of dollars but saved us the possibility of nervous breakdowns or homicide.

Fast forward sixteen years to the opening chapter of Driver’s Ed.  I was shocked, but delighted, to pay close to $1000 for Principessa to learn all things car from the local school.  In a convenient memory lapse, I convinced myself that her twelve hours with the instructor would magically spare me many more hours of grief.  I know, naivete has no limits.

It turns out that the driving instructor was a handsome 20-something who apparently thought that my daughter’s driving was so perfect, he could catch up on texting whilst she experimented with her own rules of the road.  I could have complained, but truth be told, I knew it would take more than twelve hours behind the wheel no matter who sat beside her.

I was duly panicked to take the passenger seat but husband jumped in with his signature, ‘It’ll be fine’ attitude.  It wasn’t fine.

Six months after receiving her permit Principessa was still unclear about right-of-way and traffic lanes.  She blamed her confusion on the conflicting instruction she had received from husband and me.  Not to mention the way it was delivered – with a healthy dose of yelling.

Poor Principessa – first in line.   All along the way, she has suffered the brunt of our parental inexperience, helping us to carve out rules that would be solidly established by the time her siblings came of age.   They can thank her for the following rules of the road:  no driving with both parents in the car at once, no radio, no eating, no friends, no flip-flops…. Take note, parents.  I give you lessons learned the hard way.

The most helpful tip I can share was created by a desperate and teary-eyed Principessa, “Mom, maybe it would help if you pretended to be someone else.”  What?  You want me not to be your crazed, anxious, white-knuckled mother in the passenger seat?   Genius!  From thence forward, I became ‘Bernard’ (pronounced Bah-naaahd) and Principessa became ‘Barbie’ (prounounced Bahhh-bie).

From the moment we adopted our alter egos with thick Boston accents, the mood in the car transformed.  It’s wondrous that we didn’t crash, so steeped were we in humorous banter.  Barbie and Bernard had a grand time on the road – for the most part.  To say that I became a flawless driving instructor would suggest a level of aplomb beyond my abilities as a quick-tempered Italian.  But I was a vast improvement incognito.

As the License Exam day approached, I found myself afraid that Principessa would fail, thereby extending my tenure as driving instructor.  So we crammed in late night sessions of parallel parking and three-point turns.  She would pass this test, damn it.  My sanity depended on it.

Alas, she did.  I waved goodbye to her on her maiden solo voyage, and recalled a radio advertisement that claims “the first year of a teen’s driving is the most dangerous year of her life.”  What the what?!  I needed that terrifying tidbit like I needed an inflated auto insurance premium.

When Principessa offered to take her siblings on an outing to the beach, I nearly vomited from the thought of losing all three at once in a car crash.   It’s going to take me a while to get used to this and to appreciate the positive aspects of having one less child to shuttle around.  In the meantime, I’m losing sleep and gaining gray hair.  And, despite that, loving it all.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linda Sacha
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 15:37:02

    oh priceless!!!


  2. William Puglisi
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 18:31:42

    As an insurance professional please pass along these four rules for driving:

    1. Principessa is from Massachusetts. As a result she drives better than everyone else….period.
    2. Green means go….don’t sit there for god’s sake.
    3. Yellow means go faster.
    4. Red means you have 5 more seconds but that’s it.


  3. Raymond LaFrey
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 17:29:38

    The story reminded of the first time a boy drove up to pick up Beth for a date. To call the car a rent-a-wreck would be overly generous. I don’t remember the boy but I do remember his car wouldn’t start – dead battery – and I probably helped with a jump start. As they drove off it was clear we had entered a new era with attendant uncertainties and hilarious moments.


    • Deb Dunham
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 17:44:21

      It is comforting to know that many parents have gone before me and have survived similar scenarios. I’m hoping for more of the hilarious kind and none of the terrifying.


  4. Elizabeth Palmer
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 13:41:01

    Thanks for the laughter and wisdom this morning:)


  5. fredrieka
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 12:11:45

    Oh I so remember my Kate learning to drive good grief for an A student to be that dense


    • Deb Dunham
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 13:49:58

      We marvel at the same thing. National Honor Society might want to screen for driving skills before induction.


      • fredrieka
        Jan 31, 2014 @ 14:47:59

        Husband went to pick Kate up from work thinking he would let her drive home. It was 10pm Friday night. She got in turned lights on. Hubby says “Kate turn your brights off” She turned the lights off He calmly said “Kate turn your lights back on” She turned the lights on again he said “Kate turn your brights off” She turned her lights off by the 5th time he is screaming at her asking if she did not know the difference in the switches from lights to brights by this time they were pulling in the driveway I could hear him in the house. He is the most patient man I have known. I still laugh thinking about it. She is now married 10 years and her husband prefers her to drive NOW THAT DARLIN IS SCARY HAHAAHAH

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