Why Teaching Your Kid To Drive Might Be the Most Tortuous Parenting Rite of Passage Yet

I have fantasized (wildly) about my kids being able to drive since they were in diapers – but no more than during the first few years of tween- and teen-dom, when I existed mainly to chauffeur them. Those are the years when their social events and extracurricular activities see a dramatic increase, but they’re still dependent on parents to transfer them to said events and activities. It’s a constant parade of carpools to practices and games and “Mom, can you take me to Aidan’s/Emma’s/the mall/the movies?” and “Mom, can you give Aidan/Emma a ride home from the mall/the movies?” and “Mom, can you pick me up from Aidan’s/Emma’s at 10 p.m. which is long after you’ve gotten your pajamas on and are hoping to be in bed?”

Okay, I added that last part on … but if you know, you know.

Like most parents who grossly underestimated the amount of driving they’d be doing on their kids’ behalf, I dreamed of the day that I could just hand them the keys and usher them out the door. Oh, for the sweet convenience of having another driver to make a grocery store run or shuttle a sibling to practice! I longed to be able to reclaim some of the hours of my week spent behind the wheel (with pubescent passengers complaining about my musical selections, adding insult to injury).

But you know how, when your kids are in diapers, you can’t wait for them to be potty-trained? You get this idea that it’s like, boom, once they learn to use the toilet you’ll never have to change a diaper again and those days are all behind you. It never occurs to you — not once — that even when they’re potty trained, they still won’t have adult-level toileting habits. Sure, they may use the pooper sort of independently, but then there are wiping issues … and issues with getting buttons and snaps undone in time (and redone by themselves) … and issues with wanting to use EVERY. SINGLE. PUBLIC. TOILET within a 20-mile radius every time you leave the house (which comes with its own issues — namely, how they want to put their hands all over every germ-infested surface while they’re in there). And you realize that, yeah, your kid might technically be “potty trained”, but it brings far less independence than you’d hoped.

I’m finding out that it’s the same with driving. Just because my kids are driving age doesn’t mean they’re magically road-ready and able to take a load off my plate. Logically I knew that, of course; I was just so focused on the glorious end result (independent drivers!!) that I kind of … glossed over the hard part.

Currently, I have two that are learning at the same time: my oldest, who wasn’t interested in driving whatsoever until after he turned 17, and my second-oldest, who is 15 and has literally been counting down the days until he can get his permit. And in this process, I’ve been learning some things about the agonizing process of teaching teenagers to drive.

Related story

How to Help Tweens & Teens Combat Back-to-School Stress