Teaching your child to drive strikes fear into the heart of any parent and I only have one bit of advice; DON’T DO IT. It has taken me years of terror to reach this conclusion and sadly, my youngest child is the recipient of my unwavering refusal to get in the passenger seat with him. It is perhaps a little unfair, but at least we are both (so far) still alive and speaking to each other.

Cuba, kids in pink car

Cuba, kids in pink car

Why isn’t there more access to simulated driving instruction or indeed Virtual Reality programmes they can use to get their hours up and their practice in without being a menace on the roads? I appreciate this is not the same as the real life environment, but at least they don’t have to start by being really shit and let loose on the actual roads to practice. Despite driving lessons being expensive, I have a huge respect for driving instructors. I couldn’t possibly do that job day in day out. I’d have a heart attack.

Luckily for my youngest son, his father has been brave enough to venture out into the streets with him and by all accounts he’s doing OK. But frankly, putting myself in that position and allowing my young adult, who I have spent 17 years nurturing, cherishing, guiding and protecting from all manner of dangers, only to let him career about on main roads with gay abandon, feels about the same as facing death squarely in the eye and then throwing both of us over a cliff. It goes against every thread of maternal instinct and all my parental hard-wiring synapses go berserk. I did attempt it with my other two children, but it only resulted in my spending the entire time with my foot firmly glued to the imaginary brake, pinned to the back of the seat, emitting sharp intakes of breath every 30 seconds that caused my children much anxiety and no doubt nearly a crash. At that age, when they don’t listen to you at the best of times, why should they start doing it when coming up way to fast to a red light? What if they forget which one is the brake and which one is the accelerator at just the wrong moment?

It is one of the most stressful parts of parenting and literally impossible to stay calm. I have accepted that I can’t give them any reasonable advice or indeed confidence to help them on their way. Even now, when I am driving, my mother does the same to me, clinging on to her handbag for dear life whilst trying very hard not to put her foot down and gasping a lot, which makes me want to do wheelies and speed down the road. My two older children appear to be relatively good drivers, but with me in the car it all goes wrong and they get really cross with me for being nervous or making comments like “LOOK OUT!!! THERE’S A CAR COMING THE OTHER WAY”…they started swearing at me and it’s all very unpleasant indeed.

My parents didn’t give me any lessons and I’m very grateful for that. Instead I had to save up and be driven around by a weirdo who offered to wave the driving lesson fee if I agreed to let him photograph me covered in baby oil. I swiftly realised that a new instructor would be a good idea if I wanted to concentrate on the job in hand and found someone who got me through it (on the third attempt).

My daughter, because she felt a little sorry for her brother offered to take him out in her car. This caused me even more anxiety as I felt like I was throwing them both to the wolves instead of me. Although I did think she might be a more relaxed instructor than me. Off they went, with clear instructions to ensure that he listened to everything she said (no chance). Within 10 minutes she was back home fuming having forced him to get out of the car. She drove home without him. Shortly afterwards he came back, red faced and full of anger. So it’s not just me then….

There are new changes to the test now and they have to follow sat nav instructions amongst other new things we don’t know about and with the immensely tougher road conditions they have to contend with since I passed my test over 30 years ago it is not that simple to give advice. A third of drivers killed in car accidents are under 25 and this knowledge does not help my positive frame of mind.

So I make no apology for being unable to help on this occasion and have accepted that there are just some things a parent cannot help with – you’ve just got to accept your limits.

  1. I feel your pain. I’m exactly the same and in Australia they have to do 120 hours driving before they can take the test. I managed to get our son through, and he has become a very competent driver, but with our daughter I just can’t do it. I am literally terrified, and then feel terribly guilty at the same time. With so many hours to get through, the only alternative is for parents to take on the task here.

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