Big Dude Is Learning To Drive…Everyone Take Cover!

March 4, 2014 in Parenting,Teenagers

New Drivers

New Drivers (Photo credit: teamstickergiant)

Big Dude turned 16 a few months ago, that magic age where they go from passenger to driver-in-training. And that means one thing and one thing only:

Pass the V-A-L-I-U-M.

I give myself credit for doing one thing right. I enrolled him in a driver’s education class right away. In NY state, you can take driver’s ed without a learner’s permit as long as you are 16, which essentially means your child can learn to drive with someone else, but cannot practice with you in your car at home unless he has a permit. That worked perfectly for me.

Let someone else have his sanity tested for a few months, while I can relax at the nearby coffee shop with my iced tea and scone.

But then the inevitable happened: He finished his driver’s ed course, but still needed to practice if he ever planned to pass his road test.

I don’t think I ever saw my Big Dude study so hard for a test in his life. He was determined to pass that permit test and be driving around the neighborhood in no time.

I was hoping that his first experience with the DMV would deter him from wanting to take the permit test. We walked in and sure enough, it seemed as if there were hundreds of people waiting for their number to be called. I watched Big Dude’s face turn from glee to horror as he realized this would not be a quick endeavor. One man next to us said he had been waiting since 10:30 that morning. It was now 3:30 in the afternoon. I thought that Big Dude would make a mad dash out the door right then.

“Well, we did make a reservation. Maybe your number will get called within the next hour or so,” I offered.

“It’s fine. We’ll wait. I have nothing better to do,” he replied.


About 90 minutes later, he was the proud recipient of a NY State Learner’s Permit. As soon as he held it in his hands, he asked if he could drive home from there. It was already getting dark outside so I used that as my first excuse, explaining that the rules of permit holders mean no driving after dusk. I have no idea if that is true or not, but it sounded right to me.

A few days later, he cornered me again. His homework was finished, the sun was still shining, and I had nowhere to go.

Crap. I was stuck.

Before I could invent another clever excuse, he was already in the car with the keys in the ignition. I knew it would look bad if I brought a glass of chardonnay along for the ride, so I buckled up and took a deep breath. We both noticed that the gas tank was empty, so now we had a destination in mind — the neighborhood gas station. We had to make a choice: go to the one on the busy boulevard or on the more quiet street near town?

Like a typical boy, he chose the busy street, because in his male brain, that meant he could drive fast. After he pulled out of the driveway, I think I had an out of body experience. I was watching me watching him drive and the most incredible thing happened:

I was calm.

I know part of this had to do with the fact that thanks to his driver’s ed teacher, he could actually operate the vehicle. But, I think the other part had to do with letting go — not of my firstborn baby boy who was somehow behind the wheel — but letting go of my control freak ways. I knew there was no way either of us would get through that maiden voyage without me being calm and trusting.

I only raised my voice once to say, “slow down!” Other than that, it was mostly a smooth first ride around the neighborhood, including a quick pitstop at the gas station.

My two other dudes were eagerly awaiting our return back at the house. I know they were fully expecting us to come back (hopefully in one piece) with me in a frazzled state. We surprised them both as we entered through the front door.

“Well, he can drive!” I declared. “He was pretty good,” I added.

I think Middle Dude and Little Dude were hoping for more drama, or at least a harrowing first ride, but it miraculously didn’t happen. Of course, there’s always next time…



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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Janine Huldie March 4, 2014 at 8:15 am

God help me when my girl’s learn to drive and do you know Lily asked me this weekend, if I would teach her how to drive. No joke, my 3 year old wants to drive. I nearly fell over laughing, because she was so serious when she asked and big smile and all. I am so in for it and like I said, “God help me!!”
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ohboymom March 4, 2014 at 9:18 am

That’s so cute about Lily…that time will come before you know it! I can remember when my son was maybe about 6 or 7 and he took off in a golf cart – yikes!


Chris Carter March 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

I love this story- so well written and ohmygosh I can only imagine that I will be the EXACT same way!!! And I hope I too, can let go.

Good for YOU!1

(And thank GOD you didn’t have to wait as long as that dude at the DMV)
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ohboymom March 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Yeah, there’s nothing worse than spending a “day” at the DMV! And yes, the letting go part can be hard for all kinds of reasons. :)


Kathy @ SMART Living March 4, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Congratulations! You survived the first road trip with your child behind the wheel. Not having children of my own I can’t imagine how challenging that must be.
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ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

Thanks, although I’m sure letting him drive alone once he has his license is going to be a lot worse for me — a true parenting challenge!


Sarah March 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Emily- you could have done the Valium in place of the Chardonnay as no one would be the wiser!!


ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:10 am

You’re right – maybe I’ll try that for the next ride with him. :)


Mike March 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

This is a really fun read, Emily, and I’m glad everyone survived. I’ve done some Driver Ed teaching on the side for friends and it’s amazing how they are 10 times more relaxed driving with me in the passenger seat vs their mom/dad! :)
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ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

Oh I’m sure that’s the case! My son’s driver’s ed teacher always looked so calm that I used to joke with my son that he had to be on some kind of drug/medication to make him that way.


Lisa @ The Golden Spoon March 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Oh my! I have not quite five more years (my oldest is 11 1/2) and I am not looking forward to it!


ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:08 am

Yeah, I was dreading this too believe me. I think it’s going to be a lot worse for me when he drives on his own for the first time.


Julie March 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I can’t get the image of you with Chardonnay in the front seat out of my mind! :-)


ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:07 am

Ha – I’m convinced all driver’s ed teachers have to be medicated in some way!


Julie Burton March 4, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Emily, congrats to Big Dude and to you for staying calm. My blood pressure still has not gone down from going through this with my daughter (and now I have two drivers, and two more to go, oy!). It is a huge deal…major right of passage…and can be downright terrifying for mom. I wrote not one, but two blog posts about the “kid is now driving” milestone so I was right there with you on this one, but slightly more dramatic :). and

I hope Big Dude’s driving experience with you remains drama-free!
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ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:06 am

I’m going to check out your two posts right now…and I’m SURE I have plenty of blood pressure raising car rides ahead of me! Just got lucky on this first run I’m sure…:)


Kristi Campbell March 5, 2014 at 12:10 am

Mama Dude, you SO rock. This was hilarious and awesome and I, too, was holding my breath for a mishap. YAAYYYY to Big Dude!! So much. Remind me to not share about my first driving experiences, as I will be tempted to, and was just now but well, I was not as awesome as BD. Love that this went as planned and had to laugh out loud that LD and MD were disappointed that BD didn’t do anything noteworthy!!! Love!!
Oh and my husband’s son just turned 16. He’s not driving yet. Thank you to all of the Gods for that one, I think. And because they have similar “stuff” even more of a kudos to you and BD’s driving instructor. Awesome stuff Emily. xo


ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

I’d LOVE to hear about your first driving experience! I love telling the story of how my brother taught me to drive stick shift – I laugh out loud just thinking about it.


Kelly March 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Good job mom! Oh my gosh, I was a nervous wreck when Lu started driving!

Here’s a good prank we like to pull on our new drivers…it started actually with my little sister and her friends…we initiate their driving by telling them they MUST have the car home by 10 PM due to “curfew Insurance”…we explain how it expensive it is for 16 year olds so they insurance company issues a “curfew” to limit losses.

When they figure out it’s complete b.s….hilarious! For as long as it works it’s great anyway but after they finally figure out there’s really no such thing, we turn it around on them and say something like, “I can’t believe ya ever bought that!”

I did it to Laurel too…hoping she doesn’t tell her sisters before I get a chance to rook them too:)


ohboymom March 5, 2014 at 7:58 pm

That curfew prank is genius! I’m definitely going to try that!


Rhonda March 6, 2014 at 11:12 am

You just gave me a foreshadowing of what I will be going through in 7 years and it is terrifying. Nothing like seeing the future to make me thankful for my boys being little and me not having to worry about them driving! Yea for you and Big Dude making it through!
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ohboymom March 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Yes, enjoy these years with your boys, because the older they get, the more we have to learn to trust and let go — it’s VERY hard to do!


Kerri March 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

You are my hero. I would have recommended the wine for sure. In a sippy cup :) I would also make the really big dude take him out the first time on the highway. Cause you know, it could be a male bonding excuse I mean exercise


ohboymom March 9, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Oh don’t worry, the really big dude is DEFINITELY doing the first highway run…and possibly every practice run after that. Not sure I have the stomach for that one. Otherwise, I’m definitely bringing that sippy cup! :)


grownandflown March 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Emily, earning a driving license is a defining moment for our kids. Never again will they depend on us in quite the same way which is both bad but also good. Clearly safety is key but their ability to manage themselves independently from their moms, especially, helps them feel more grown up like nothing else (short of going to college) during their teen years. Good luck, to both of you!!!
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ohboymom March 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Thank you…and I agree, it’s a huge step for both the teen and the parent.


Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. March 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Oh how I hope my level-headed alter ego will show up in those driving moments when my girls are teenagers. Sometimes it’s amazing when our inner Zen mom comes out- I hope I am pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, I’m thinking my less overreactive husband might be the better parent for this driving stuff… Nice work, mama!
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ohboymom March 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Thanks, although I’ll admit that since I wrote this, we’ve had a few less calm rides. :)


Carpool Goddess March 13, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I screamed during much of those first few rides with my kids, so I left most of the co-driving duties to my husband and driver’s ed teacher. Such an exciting time for both of you.
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ohboymom March 13, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Yeah, I’m not really sure how my husband has not done driving duty yet…definitely his turn when he goes on the highway!


Susie (The Esthetic Goddess) March 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Awww, you did good. Big dude probably would have felt your fear and it may have made him nervous. I taught my 3 boys how to drive. They had to have 50 hours behind the wheel before they could get there license. I was always calm too.
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ohboymom March 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Well, I wish I could say I’ve always been calm, but since I’ve written that post, I’ve had a few rides with him where I’ve wished I had that glass of chardonnay with me. :)


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