I actually like driving and have for a very long time. I think it may have started with my little brother’s dashboard driving toy. I liked honking the horn, turning the key and turning the steering wheel. By the time I was twelve I would sit next to my mom on the front bench-seat of her sedan without seatbelts and she would let me steer the car while she drove on our neighborhood streets. (The car might have had seatbelts but no one used them.) Next I was starting the car for her and then driving it in the driveway. Eventually I was fully driving in my neighborhood. Yes, this was before I entered high school and took driver’s education as a sophomore.
My driving career has included sedans, coupes, sports cars, mini vans, full size vans, 15 passenger vans, pick-up trucks, sports utility vehicles, a yard tractor, and a Honda scooter. The last one is my current favorite ride. It is not that I object to the driving, but it was the amount of time running around for, and with, my children. I have seen bumper stickers identifying family mini vans as family taxis.
Soccer practice, orthodontist appointment, friend’s house, gymnastics, babysitting jobs . . . Someone always needed to go somewhere. Drop off child number one at his buddy’s house and pick up child number two from book club. Remember to go by the post office and the bank on the way home from the library. Sometimes the lists seemed endless. I hated being a taxi and spending so much time in the family van. Additionally there were things to be attended to at home.
We did our best to combine errands and not be running to do one thing now and one thing later. We also choose to limit how many activities a child could participate in at a time. One. One at a time. That was one club or sport in addition to AWANA club when they were young or youth group as teenagers. There were some additions allowed when multiple children could participate at the same time. Many years the three oldest did swimming at the YMCA and later at Wheaton College.
The more children you have, the harder it is to manage everyone’s schedules. Hence, I was thrilled when our oldest child turned fifteen and we enrolled him in a driving class. By the time he turned 16 he had a full year of on-the-road driving experience and he was ready to get his license, which he did the day after his birthday. Then he could take himself on some of his errands and help with the siblings’ errands. Hooray. Driving is a big step in the direction of being an independent adult and that is our parental goal.
We did this with each of our children. Since there is a 17 years difference between our first born and last born there were some changes in our state laws regarding teen drivers and requirements to obtain licenses. Overall I still think it is a great plan to get their permits at 15 and licenses at 16 year old.
We also offered each of our kids a monetary bonus which they received on their 17th birthday if they went the full year without causing an accident or getting a ticket. They all earned it. I suggest parents do this as it is great incentive for careful driving. Because we could afford it, we paid their insurance expense as long as they were enrolled in high school or college. Clunker cars are the best for teen drivers. Most teens will have an automobile accident.
Our children were permitted to drive our oldest vehicle until they could purchase their own. We did assist each of our children as they made decisions and choices with the purchase of their first vehicles. The looking and buying process was a valuable learning experience for them. Two of them bought vehicles with manual transmissions and had to instantly learn how to do that. By the time they each had their driver’s licenses they had already learned how to change oil by working with their dad. At age sixteen our youngest son took a two day class of auto maintenance for new drivers at our community college. That sparked an interest which led to him seeking further education and a career in automobile mechanics.
Yes, I am glad my mom let me illegally drive early. No, I did not do it with my children. However, I did let them drive the yard tractor to mow.