“How To Teach Your Kid to Drive: 7 Steps (with pictures)” or “How to Teach Somebody to Drive: 10 Steps” — I was in a quandary.
First I looked back at my own driving lessons: Dad taught my twin brother and me on private dirt roads around my grandparent’s isolated lake house. My father would drink a beer before he got in the car and bring a spare — just in case — that he kept under the front seat.
When I learned to drive (mumble) years ago, the lesson of drinking and driving had yet to reach most people. Plus, I planned to start in an empty parking lot with only one kid.
If looking back wasn’t the way to come up with a lesson plan for my own children, what was? As the two oldest careened toward learner’s permit age, I would give it a flash of thought then brush that aside as a Deal With It Later issue.
Later finally came for firstborn Bekah, but she wasn’t interested.
Not interested? “How can that be?” some would ask. It’s a rite of passage, a symbol of freedom, a way to hang out with your friends without Mom chauffeuring and doing that embarrassing driver’s seat dance.
But Bekah wasn’t interested and I wasn’t about to push a kid behind the wheel if she didn’t want to be there. I look at driving through the same lens as potty training: the kid has to be willing, eager and ready or it’s going to be a big mess.
Two and a half years passed before she possessed those qualities.
As fate would have it, it was the same time second born son was also age-ready.
Suddenly I was faced with the same situation as my father: teaching two kids to drive at the same time. Either in a panic or out of nostalgia, I threw a six-pack of Shock Top in my grocery cart. Just in case.
It turned out he wasn’t ready, either. Back to vague Plan A: one kid at a time. But I still needed to break down the skill of driving without a break-down of my own.
Barley and hops were not the answer (to this question), Google was. The first two search results offered either a seven- or 10-step plan, but both seemed oversimplified. I scoured the list and read article after article written by parents and pros on how to face this task.
Finally my daughter pointed out that she was ready to get behind the wheel but I was glued to a computer screen. I stopped reading, whipped up a theory based on my father’s lessons, all that I had learned in my (mumble) years of driving and what I had read. While studying for her permit test she learned the basic rules of the road; while sitting in the garage she learned the basics of the vehicle. It was time to pass her the keys and put theory to the test.
A jumble of fear, pride and wow battled in my nervous stomach. It felt as if the day she first rested in my arms and the first time she ran toward the street as a toddler happened simultaneously.
With no beer in either my system or the car, I drove us to an empty parking lot, got out of the driver’s seat and passed the keys to Bekah. Once she adjusted her seat, the mirrors and got the car started she bravely looked at me for guidance. I looked back.
“Put the car in reverse. If you drive backwards first, everything forward will feel more natural. You’ve got this.”