As parents we get to hear lots about developing motor skills (usually fine or gross) … and then there are motor skills of a different kind!
There comes a time in every father’s life when they realise their little girl is growing up. She is nearly as tall as you are, can develop strong arguments and the mother-daughter thing can get explosive – particularly at certain times of the month.
She isn’t quite 15 yet but one day asks the question. “Dad, could you maybe take me to a car park and show me how to drive?” When I was young my father let me move the car up and down our driveway well before I was 15. I remember him whacking me for swerving for a dog that ran out when we went on our first on-road outing. Luckily my school had a drivers’ education program so the stress of learning went down for him and me. My experiences led me to believe that learning basic vehicle handling before facing traffic is a good thing.
I know of kids, particularly girls, who are afraid to learn to drive – so it’s also a confidence thing! What was I to do? I weighed up the pros and cons.
The pros are:
- It is a potentially good father/daughter bonding experience. Providing I stay cool and don’t end up yelling.
- It will be good for her self-confidence and independence. She hasn’t started from an over-confident position, which would have caused a different set of concerns.
- Learning early may give her a good base before going into a proper training program when she is old enough.
- I would rather she had her license and was driving rather than some other person (possibly a boy who thinks he is indestructible).
- It’s illegal – well, unless you are on private property …
- They aren’t insured!
- It could go terribly wrong and eliminate all the potential benefits.
- I could look uncool (sweating profusely)
I decided to give it a try anyway and off we went late one Sunday morning. The venue was quiet (a local cemetry … don’t say it!) with just a few parked cars as people visited their dearly departed. In this location, any traffic will be going only 20-30 kph, giving plenty of time to react.
I pulled up deep in the cemetery grounds and gave my daughter a description of how to pull away from stopped and how to stop again. Then it was her turn. *DRUM ROLL* … She did fine and we progressed to driving round round-abouts, indicating and turning, driving past parked cars, starting on a hill…. She scraped the kerb once and I learned the importance of thinking through details – like which way to turn the key. If you turn it the wrong way when trying to turn it off!!!
My daughter reported back to her mother that I had been very relaxed and only raised my voice once. After the second lesson she can drive around quite well, although will need a bit more practice on three-point turns. There were a few moments when I realised how little control I had without a dual control car; we developed a code word which meant ‘hit the brakes hard’ it was STOP! However, in moments of panic it can take a little while for the word to come out.
I feel hopeful that she will master the basics of manoeuvring the car and can then focus a bit on anticipating what other drivers (who will only be doing 20-30ks) will do. By the time she gets to have proper lessons she will be well on her way to being a ‘good’ driver. Then, we will have to face her wanting to drive us out on the ‘proper’ roads and, one day, the inevitable complete loss of control when she wants to go solo. Hopefully I will have done the right thing and both our relationship and her self-confidence and safety will benefit from it. Time will tell.
My next challenge – her younger brother wants to learn to ride a motorbike!
For the record – a quick comparison of legal / minimum driving ages around the world:
Australia: 16-18 (depending on state)
Costa Rica: 18
Europe except UK: 18
Hong Kong: 18
New Zealand: 15
South Africa: 18
USA: varies between 14 1/2 and 17 (depending on state)