Our youngest has gotten his learner’s permit and is starting classes and practices driving (with my husband and I first, and the driving instructor later on). The first drive he was understandably nervous.
First lessons with our boys started the same way — in a relatively empty parking lot, and alternate with a nearby community college that has even more empty space when school is out. We get them in the drivers seat, talk about the seat belt, seat and mirror positions, the controls (park, drive, reverse), and foot position — drive with one foot going between the gas, brake and emergency brake, before we start any driving.
The first lesson, with my youngest, was at the nearby community college. We had gone through the basics and he was ready to start his drive. He let his foot gently off the brake and we started to move forward. He drove in a straight line and I asked him to stop as we neared where he’d need to start a turn. I showed him how to turn the wheel and he did well. We continued to drive slowly around the parking lot. Early lessons are normally short (15-20 minutes in length) — for both our son’s sanity (his nerves are high), and my husband’s and mine (our nerves are pretty high too, though we try to mask them and appear we’re cool and collected). My son started to drive again, this time applying a little more pressure to the gas pedal. We were going relatively slow but when he came around the corner he over corrected and was driving towards the curb where some trees were. When I saw him start to panic, in my mind I said, “brake, brake, brake!”, but after he came to a stop up on the curb (but thankfully not in the trees) he said I said, “whoa, whoa, whoa!” 😬 My words added to his panic (clearly not my intention). Thankfully no damage was done, we and the car were fine. We concluded the lesson following.
On the drive back home we talked about the drive — what my son felt good about and what he needs to work on (based on what we practiced). My son gave me some good pointers in how I can better help him in the future. “Mom, my brain works differently. Hand gestures put my brain on overload. You telling me what I need to do is more helpful.” I love how clear my kid-on-the-spectrum is. It never occurred to me how teaching him to drive would be different from my older son. While driving on the curb scared us both, his ability to give me feedback to better help him made me feel more confident to help him succeed. Another time as the parent I’ve also become the student. While I have my drivers license I only have my learner’s permit in teaching my son. I need his feedback, regardless the situation, to be a better driving instructor, better supporter, better advocate, and better parent.
What are learning from your child? How is your child helping you be better?