September 4, 2016 was a huge day in our house. We went out to the good Chinese restaurant instead of ordering takeout from the usual place! Just kidding. We actually did do that, but it was in honor of my oldest son turning 16. His original plan was to run to the local Drivers License Center and take the test for his permit, but sadly his birthday fell on a Sunday…and the next day was Labor Day, so he had to wait until Tuesday to try and take the test.
Passed on the first try and he was ready to go!
It was a different world once he got behind the wheel. You could see the nerves setting in. The kid was realizing what a big responsibility driving a car really was. We started off with my husband having him go up and down our street and parking the car in the driveway. Once he mastered that, we would pull over about a mile or less away from home and let him take over.
“Um, are you sure about this Mom?” He asked nervously. “I don’t have to do it. I can practice later.”
“Do it!” I said.
It really felt like we were pushing a baby bird out of a nest and teaching him how to fly. Once he got behind the wheel and drove, he did great! No worries at all. My husband and I kept encouraging him and he was doing a fantastic job.
Then it happened.
About two or three weeks into having his permit, my husband had our son drive to the local gas station with him right outside of our neighborhood. Preparing to head home, the boy mistook the gas for the brake, and put the car into the bushes behind the station. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the car was stuck, there was no way for them to get it out on their own. A tow truck had to be called. Sadly, when the car was pulled out of the bushes, the front bumper was completely pulled off too, right in front of my son. In a moment of stress, my husband said something about my son helping to pay for the deductible. That was it in my son’s mind. That scared him off for good. He wasn’t driving again.
The next two months were spent begging my son to get behind the wheel again. Nothing. He wouldn’t even consider it.
Slowly, he started to consider parking lots and “safe” places in our neighborhood. It was still a fight to get him to drive, but if you caught him at the right time, he would do it. More and more he got comfortable again. He even began asking to practice once in awhile.
The big breakthrough was when one of his best friends passed the driving test and got his license. He began begging to drive. Nothing like peer pressure, huh? Thankfully, he knows he is not ready for that step just yet and needs more practice.
While many kids once they hit 16 are begging to get behind the wheel of a car, many more are completely terrified. It may not be due to a fender bender like in our case, but there are some teenagers who just need more time and reassurance. Be patient with them and don’t push them. I admit there were times we lost our patience with our own son. We just didn’t understand. We didn’t blame him for what happened, it was an accident, and we thought we made that clear, so what was the problem? We didn’t get that our son’s fears were deeper and he needed more time to come to terms with it before he could move on. Everyone kept telling us to get him back behind the wheel as soon as possible, but the best solution actually was to let him do it when he was ready. He won’t be driving at the same time as all of his friends, but he will be ready and safe when he does get out there on the road, at the time that is right for him.