Parental stress induced by the learner's permit — FranklyStein

Adam drivingHaving a child with a learner's permit is a queasy, stressful time.

It means relinquishing control of my vehicle to a teenager, who has no idea how to operate it and barely the maturity to understand the immense responsibility involved.

My car is one of my most needed and expensive possessions. It's something I can't easily live without. It's also more dangerous than a loaded gun. And a learner's permit means that I have to sit back in the death seat and teach my teen to use it properly without thinking about the fact that she (or he) could wreck it and possibly kill both of us and anyone else on the road with one wrong move.

I know this because I've been through it with my oldest. Her first time behind the wheel, she drove right into our neighbor's yard. It never occurred to me that she would have absolutely no idea how to operate a vehicle. Luckily, no one was injured and there was no damage. We survived the first trip around the block, the first venture onto a busy road and the first time on a highway — with only a few gray hairs on my part to show for it.

Something I didn't realize before I went through this the first time was that when you have a child with a learner's permit, you rarely get to drive your own car. In order to get the 60 hours drive time required before they are eligible for their license, they must drive everywhere the two of you go. I was never so happy when Maggie finally got her license to be able to drive my own car again — and to finally relax while in it.

Lilly drivingBut that time has passed, and we are in a new era. One that I never thought about when the obstetrician told me I was having twins. We now have two children with learner's permits needing to learn to drive at the same time.

This past week I survived Adam's first trip onto the main road but then had to turn around and navigate the same thing with Lilly at the wheel. There's no rest for weary nerves. And for both experiences, the other twin was in back seat adding to the stress level. At one point, Adam — the oh, so experienced driver after three 8-minute excursions — was loudly critiquing Lilly's driving which prompted me to loudly reprimand him. It was a lovely experience that left Lilly near tears, and one I am sure will be repeated many times in the months to come.

I can't imagine how we will get in the 120 hours of drive time needed for them both to get their licenses over the next nine months. And my husband recently bought a stick-shift car, so now they need to learn stick or only drive in my car. I'm not sure if this was a calculated move on his part, but it certainly won't make things easier.

So keep an eye out for my car on the road. I'll be the gray haired lady in the passenger seat with a death grip on the door handle. Be sure to keep your distance.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.