Sunday afternoon I suggested that we go to Spanish Fork to visit some grandparents. And wouldn’t it be a good idea to have our soon to be 16 year old son drive? He needs to get 40 hours of driving in, right? So, we piled everyone in, and he got in the driver’s seat. I was right behind him (not as much leg room in the middle seat) and my husband was in front with him. I was ok until right about the time we got out of our neighborhood. That was when I began to rethink the logic of this here trip. Yes, he had some jerky stops, but in reality he was doing ok. This was not his first time driving. Hubby has taken him out in the truck (stick shift! Much harder!) multiple times, but it was MY first time riding with him, as well as the first time the whole family has been in the car while he’s been in the driver’s seat.
As he maneuvered onto the freeway, however, any last shred of calm I had seemed to vanish out the window. Driving on the freeway is NOT the same as driving around town. Why did I put the entire family in the same car with the teenaged driver? WHY? Even though I was really trying to stay calm, with every lurch or overcorrection, I’m imagining the entire family and how we will look as the firefighters pull us out of the ditch down there off the side of the freeway. I’m not exaggerating here, folks, I really was not handling it well. I tried to keep my gasps to a minimum, because that won’t help the kid in the confidence department.
To his credit,hubby was an excellent driver’s ed “instructor”. He stayed calm and never raised his voice. He occasionally did adjust the wheel, but he didn’t freak out and grab the wheel as I’m almost positive I would do. His voice stayed pretty even as he told our son to speed up, slow down, stay to the right or left, reminded him to check his blind spot, coast, slow down, etc. I, however, was trying so hard not to scream. I was reminded of MY driver’s ed days, 20 something years ago, with coach what’s his name. It seemed all the drivers ed teachers were overweight wrestling or basketball or football coaches. They would stop at “the SEV” and get a big gulp, and sit in the passenger’s seat without so much as a flinch. I was terrified when he told me to “take it to the freeway”, early one morning, and I remember when he made some comment about my “lead foot”. I was gripping the steering wheel so hard, I didn’t realize my speed was creeping up. Ack! At the time, I didn’t realize that their job really wasn’t the piece of cake I thought it was. Well, at least it wouldn’t be for me.
As we approached each off ramp from Pleasant Grove to Spanish Fork, I was SO tempted to cry out, “Get off at this exit and I’ll drive the rest of the way!” I held my tongue and practiced my calm breathing exercises, but I guess I wasn’t fooling anyone. My husband looked back at me several times and told me to calm down, it would all be ok. Since no one wanted to distract the teenager from his important job of driving without killing us all in a fiery crash, there wasn’t much small talk in the back seat to distract me. I looked out the windows at the mountains, but all I seemed to see were the other cars, and how gosh darn CLOSE they were to us.
That was the longest drive to grandma’s house EVER. I was never so happy to get there as I was that day. One of the kids asked if our son was going to be driving home, and I quickly said, “No!” Drive all the way home? In the dark? I don’t think so. Not that I don’t think he could handle it, I just don’t think I could handle it.
Was I overreacting? Yes. I was. I know it now, and I knew it at the time. But I couldn’t control my anxiety. Not one little bit. My face had “I need xanex” written all over it.
I know some of you who have children who drive are just laughing at me, and I do hope I get better with time, but for now,
I will leave the driving instruction to my husband–my calmer half. Perhaps I will need to talk to my mental health professional and get myself some anti anxiety medication before we do that again. If we ever do that again.