Is there a patron saint devoted specifically to mothers of teenage daughters? Religious or not, I could use all the help I can get.
My daughter starts driver's education today. She and her best friend determined there was no way they could wait until the second quarter of school to take the class, because that would take away time better spent on an academic course. That's true, and she knows we're prepping her for college, and want her to take as diverse a course load as possible.
The price is the same for either school or private lessons, so that wasn't an issue. Plus, I've fantasized about what it would be like to have someone else run out for a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs, instead of having to slog out and do it myself – especially in winter. I know she'd agree to pretty much anything requiring her to get behind the wheel of a car, snow or no snow. Sometimes that would come in very handy. Thus, we raised the white flag before any shots were fired.
Today is day one of a four-week classroom course in which she'll learn the rules of the road. After two days she can get her driver's permit, allowing her to legally practice driving with a parent or guardian beside her, a parent gripping the dashboard so hard her fingers become a permanent fixture, knuckles turning white, while her face becomes frozen in an attitude of abject terror. Remember when your mother warned, "Don't make that face, or it'll freeze that way!" I'll let you know if that's true.
I've already let my daughter drive around our block, though only once. Yes, it's illegal, and I hope none of our local police officers - Our indispensable men and women in blue! God love you! – read this. She did fine, even if a few times I thought she'd sideswipe a mailbox (they're located on the edge of the street, before you get too alarmed), and when she had to drive around a parked car I thought she'd dissolve into tears. Aside from the jerking of brake/gas/brake/gas no one was maimed or otherwise permanently disabled. I didn't scream, "OhmyGodwe'regoingtodie!" even once, though when she took a curve without slowing down I had to bite my tongue.
Once she's completed nine months driving on her permit – with aforesaid parent or guardian, of which she luckily has two in case one must be institutionalized with a nervous disorder – and completing a set number of driving hours (split between day and night, side roads and highway), she will get her official driver's license, also known as "my last minute grocery purchaser."
I'm a little worried about the eye test portion of the driving test. She's been subject to a recurring issue with her sight, one left undiagnosed, as it doesn't show up when I take her to the eye doctor. I first learned of it one summer day when I left a note on the kitchen table asking her to load the dishwasher, feed the dogs, and perform a couple other chores. Though I printed it in legible – I thought – letters, when I got home from work and found the work undone she informed me she wasn't able to see the list. But then, another day I left a note reading, "I'll be home to take all of you out to lunch at 12:30, so be up and dressed," somehow she was able to force her eyes to focus – she's so determined and brave! – and I found the children dressed and ready to go. Despite the fact I've searched WebMD repeatedly, I can't find any symptoms matching hers.
Equally disturbing, she's had a similar problem with her ears. When we call up the stairs to let her know a meal is ready, or her favorite musical group is on TV, she responds immediately. However, if her father or I request she vacuum, dust or bring her laundry downstairs these statements often go unheeded. Again, because she couldn't hear well enough to know we were summoning her. We wonder if she just isn't able to hear some frequencies, despite the hearing specialist finding nothing out of the ordinary.
Knowing all this, her dad and I still have a few reservations about her driving. What if her ocular affliction kicks in at a red light, or stop sign? What if she fails to hear emergency sirens and doesn't pull to the right and stop? Then again, what if being unable to drive means she'll have to live at home when she starts college, and is then unable to move her things out of the house?
So many questions. So few answers.
I'm sure we'll all live through this. Pedestrians and those on bicycles, I'm not as sure about. But with a little luck, and a whole lot of fervent prayer, I think things will go okay.