Friday, May 25, 2018


Emma is driving.  Supervised, but she's driving.  The state of PA requires 65 hours of supervised driving over the course of no less than six months after she receives her permit to take her test.  We've been whittling away at that in increments of one hour or so for the past couple months.

They're little bite-sized packets of tenuously-controlled terror, but if I'm being totally fair, it's my fault.  She's doing fine.  She's doing better than fine.  She's doing great.  But I'm still scared shitless at least once or twice per drive, and I THINK it comes down to MY inability to trust that she sees stuff and will react appropriately to it.

I suck at roller coasters.  I suck at airplanes.  Honestly, I suck at being a passenger in most people's cars.  I involuntarily hit brakes.  I white knuckle "oh shit" handles.  I just suck at not being terrified at trusting other people to be in control of my safety.  And I'm no expert driver, so it's not that I feel I'm sooooo much better at doing it than other people.  I in control.

So for a couple hours every week, I give up control of the car and we barrel (carefully drive) over the road at break neck speed (typically at or below the speed limit) running errands or just getting into the practice of driving.

Have I lost my temper?  Yes.

But we're developing a system.  Reading through the driver's manual to get ideas how what/how to teach Emma how to drive (it's actually a "how to teach your teen to drive" manual) I found a gem about having her verbalize all the things she's doing in the car.  Apart from being a chicken about loss of control in general, I think particularly hard for me is just not knowing that she sees the things I see.  I am at war with I constantly teach (nag) her throughout her drive?  Do I give her credit and assume she's got it under control?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.  I harken back to a huge fight my girlfriend and I got in just after high school.  We were visiting her family in Denver.  She was driving.  I kept giving her directions.  In my head I think I thought it was my job in the passenger seat to be navigator.  She lectured me heatedly about it.  We fought and the car was silent.  I saw our turn coming up.  She was in the wrong lane.  I'd JUST gotten my ass handed to me for telling her to switch lanes.  JUST.  I didn't say anything until after the turnoff passed. 

"You just missed the turnoff," I said, helpfully.  Fight two was about recognizing the difference between nagging her about what to do behind the wheel and not helping her navigate to her family's house.  I my argument was that she'd just yelled at me for a half hour about not telling her how to drive so I was letting her show me how well she did it.  Passive aggressive...probably.  Yes.  Fine.  Definitely.  But really you had to be there.  I would NOT have won in that situation.  If I'd have told her the exit was coming up...but we can never know, can we?  Maybe she'd have been, "awww, thanks, Jim, I didn't see that!"  Plus I was like 19.  *side eye*  whatever.

ANYWAY...I won't NOT tell her about something that could potentially get us in an accident or going the wrong way like I did with my girlfriend all those years ago.  So we get into little spats, and honestly?  Honestly she's been handling THOSE really well too.

I got sidetracked.  The manual said to have Emma verbalize her observations and proposed actions:  "I see a yellow light up ahead, I'm going to slow down and stop at the red light", "I see the car stopped in the middle of the road with his turn signals on.  I'm slowing down in case he can't turn."  That kind of thing.

That stuff?  REALLY helps.  She doesn't brake the same way I do.  I want to hit the brakes now...and she's waiting...but if she at least tells me she sees the obstruction, and WILL hit the brakes, it lets me feel less like I'm waiting to die.

We're still not totally consistent at this approach, but it helps.  The other thing that I THINK helps her (I'll chat with her about it before our next drive, because I was just thinking about it a few days ago) but also helps me is providing her with the same narration in question form.  "There's a light up ahead, do you see it?  The car in front of you is signaling, so he's probably going to slow down to turn, are you ready to hit your brakes?"  That extra bit of communication is better than the...slow down, SLOW DOWN SLOWDOWN STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP that I'd PREVIOUSLY been using.

It's scary, but it's not scary because she's doing a bad job.  It's scary because she's driving a car for the first time and accidents happen...even to me...and it makes me nervous.

She applied for a second job.  She's decided she wants to save for a car which I honestly think is amazing.  So she applied for a second job and she has her second interview tonight.  She's got hustle.  I mean...everywhere but at home.  (I sat on this post for a day because I was going to add pictures and then I forgot, and in the mean time she got the second job.  Woohoo!)

I parked a trash can, HER trash can in front of the door to her room after taking out her garbage last Thursday.  By Saturday I was posting snapchat stories with "Day 3" to 'help her remember', but by Day 4 I finally got fed up and asked her to put it in her room.

Clothes on the floor, in some cases inches from the empty laundry basket.  Bed unmade unless I specifically tell her to go back upstairs and make it before school.  It feels like it's a constant battle against entropy.  And entropy always wins.  Never bet against entropy.

She's learning the discipline of completing her homework though.  That's almost entirely on autopilot.  She still slips into bad habits at the end of the quarter or school year, but her grades are better, and I rarely have to tell her to get school work completed.

And she's nervous.  All this shit is coming at her fast now.  She's at the end of her sophomore year and they're starting to pressure the kids to decide what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  Next year we'll start looking at colleges...maybe applying...touring.  It's a lot.  And it's scary.

And it's bittersweet.  At least for me.  I may never be a true empty nester.  Lily will almost certainly continue to live with me throughout adulthood.  But Emma is THIS CLOSE *holds thumb and finger imperceptibly close together* to being off on her own.

Driving, college, graduation, they're all just an eye blink away.  Just like everyone said 16 years ago when she was born.


  1. I really can't be a passenger in a car. I get sick- queasy, headache, sweats- and I'm terribly anxious about it, can't help it. NOT looking forward to my teen learning to drive! I know I want to help her and I will, but I know it will be painful. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I only really get car sick like that when I'm not looking at the road, and with Emma behind the wheel...I'm always looking at the road.

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  3. We use this same strategy with our two drivers-in-training. It is helpful for me to know they see what I see and helpful for them to not have to listen to my wisdom (nagging).
    As far as how fast the time is going until they are grown & flown, a friend once told me “the days are long, but the years are short.” At the time, I did not get it, but seriously, where did our babies go?