CONFESSIONS OF A SCARED FATHER
By Rick Fauquet
It was a cold afternoon in Tulsa when my father rushed me into the car. I assumed we were just running an errand or two, but we ended up at a wide-open parking lot instead. He jumped out of the car and said, "You're learning how to drive today".
To say I was scared, would be an understatement.
I drove in a square around the property for three hours.
I learned how to parallel park, how to pump the brakes instead of slamming them, and how to always be aware of blind spots. My dad said that if I could drive after an eight-inch snowfall in a crappy parking lot, I could drive anywhere.
Now, fast forward about thirty years. I have a fifteen-year-old daughter getting her learner’s permit and my wife and I are getting ready to teach her how to drive...These are the Confessions of a Scared Father.
I'm not scared for her, (I'm lying, I'm terrified) she is smart, put-together, brilliant and wise beyond her years. I'm scared that I am going to screw up. As a parent, we all want to pass on the best of who we are to our children. Am I a perfect driver? NO! But I realized that this process should be something that we all should experience together.
Research, Research, Research
We started by going to our local DMV. Now, we all know that the DMV can be a frustrating place. But the DMV employees are really only there to help. I have found that a friendly tone and a smile goes a long way. The woman behind the desk was very helpful and gave us some great direction.
In our state, every teen has to take a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse and Education course before applying for their learner’s permit. It is not offered at the DMV; you have to take it through an independent source online. We looked at all of the sites that were accepted and chose the one that my daughter felt most comfortable with.
Trying to convince a fifteen-year-old to sit down and take a four-hour online class is no easy task. But we talked about the importance of the course and she completely understood. One of the worst things you can do is downplay the significance of something as serious as driving.
The online class sparked good conversation in the household. I even found myself looking over her shoulder (She loved that!) and engaging in some of the questions with her.
When she did pass the class, it was time to study the Official Drivers License Handbook for our state. Things haven't changed much since I took my Learners Permit Test. The test consisted of fifty questions, ten involving road signs and you have to get an 80%. She studied, went to the DMV, and passed the test.
Now, I need to teach her how to drive.
I have been talking her through every move I make in a car for the last six months.
I started to think about the things that made me nervous as a young driver and it wasn't actually the driving part. Things that we take for granted, like turn signals or how to operate the windshield wipers, are things that young drivers need to be comfortable with. Not understanding the car itself was what scared me.
I have thirty years of sense memory when it comes to driving. My daughter doesn't. I am now taking her through a routine that she has to perform every time she gets behind the wheel.
As soon as you get in the car:
"As a parent, it's hard to let go. This whole process was scary. As I saw her gain confidence, though, so did I. We were experiencing something very important together. It was one of the best feelings I've ever had as a parent. As she was driving us to the grocery store for the first time, a sense of relief washed over me. She was going to be okay!"