On the highway of life, there are so many wonderful adventures with our kids. That is, on the metaphorical highway of life. On the literal highway, especially when our kids start sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle we all are riding in—well, let’s just say the word “adventure” takes on a whole new meaning.
It’s rare to meet a child who isn’t eager to start driving. In addition to the excitement of becoming a driver—being the one in sole control of a three-thousand-pound automobile—our young often dream of soon having their very own car, truck, or even motorcycle. While it’s something we adults uneventfully, almost robotically do on a daily basis, it is not something in which we tend to be ready to watch our offspring participate, especially the first time around.
I imagine there are countless articles on how to keep calm while teaching your kid to drive. Of course, there are driver’s education courses and schools, but the real practice seems to come at the expense of the parental finances. There also can be quite a cost in the gray hair department!
One of our sons learned to drive in Seattle and took a class at an overpriced driving school. The middle boy took a class at a moderately priced driving school in a mid-sized city on the opposite coast from where his older brother earned his license. The youngest took an old-fashioned, public school-sponsored, coach-taught, free-to-the-parent summer offering in a rural Kansas community. Regardless where they cut their driving chops, my wife and I were unequivocally the practice driving guinea pigs. We learned right along with them, maybe not the same concepts, but we learned.
Unfortunately, the celebration at the DMV upon passing that final test was only the beginning: we had a new driver in the family, but we didn’t necessarily have a new car for the new driver to drive. Check that. We absolutely didn’t have a new, or an old car, for the new driver to drive.
What do parents do with this dilemma? Of course, it will vary from family to family, not only due to financial situations, but also to family beliefs and priorities. My wife and I decided that if we were having the boys help with family driving duties, such as dropping a sibling at a sports’ practice, or running to the store for milk, we provided the vehicle. Beyond that, if the child was keeping up at school, with chores, and certainly with wise choices, he could occasionally borrow one of our vehicles for something he wanted to do. Said vehicle would have to be returned on time, clean, and filled with fuel. If that didn’t suffice, the child was free to work to earn money to purchase, provide gas, maintenance, tags, taxes, and insurance for his own.
As with anything in the world of parenting, judgment from others abounds. We had friends who thought we were winning at the parenting game and others who thought we were harsh taskmasters. In the end, now that all boys are grown with families of their own, I thankfully can say they consistently thank us for allowing them to discover the pride of hard work, responsibility, and ownership from a young age. They also feel it made for true “adulting.” This is especially so now they are becoming parents themselves, a transition not seemingly as difficult as many of their peers claim to experience.
Again, every family is different. Every family has varying circumstances. Every family has to find its own rhythm. In your search for the right familial beat, don’t rule out the opportunities to empower your children in discovering how good it can feel to not only be a responsible driver, but to simply be . . . responsible.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org