Recently, my son got his learner's permit, which is enough to make any parent reflect on when they started driving. I'll never forget that period in my life. After I took driver's ed and was about to obtain my license, my father got orders that took us overseas where I had to learn how to drive on the left-hand side of the road and read signs in another language. As if driving on in our country wasn't overwhelming enough!
The rules of the road in Okinawa were quite a bit different than here. Over there, there was an unwritten rule that people jokingly referred to as the 'ten-car rule.' As long as cars kept going through red lights - everyone else followed as if no one saw that it was time to stop. By about the tenth car in line, someone would eventually obey the traffic light. Then, there were other instances when you might have seen someone driving on the sidewalk to avoid a traffic jam - or driving down the bike lane. So, yeah, you could say my driving skills were a bit backward.
By the time I came to college and tested for my American license, I felt like I was a pro - a real road warrior, while my driving instructor at the DMV would say differently. About the time I entered the 'deceleration' ramp toward oncoming traffic - my instructor flipped his lid with good reason. If I'd seen a handful of cars exiting a highway and coming for me, I'd have lost it too.
It's safe to assume that I didn't pass my first test. I still laugh about it today and wonder how many people that instructor has told that story to. For me, I was only doing what came naturally, and that was entering a highway from the left side. I soon learned that did not fly in the US.
Now that it's my son's turn behind the wheel, I try not to react in the manner my father did when he was teaching my sis or me.
I can still recall him ordering my sister to stop the car so he could get out and circle the vehicle arms flying as who knows what spewed from his lips. I'm sure his language was more than colorful.
When it came time for my driving lessons, I think he drove with me once before handing the reins to my mom so she could tackle the task of being my passenger.
A couple of months ago, my kid and I drove to the same DMV that I tested and failed. Coincidentally, it's also where my father failed his test too. I found it ironic that my dad also had to test twice, and I didn't learn about it until I took my kid.
Some great memories I've made with my son so far? When I drove him to get his permit, he mastered the aux chord and hi-jacked my stereo system to play all his favorite '80's music. I was amazed to find out that most of his favorites are the same as mine - Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, Dead or Alive, Journey, Toto, Men at Work, and many, many more ...
A big lesson I learned that today (other than the fact that my kid has fantastic taste in music) is that he's undoubtedly the coolest kid on the planet ... He knew more trivia than I did about music from my era.
Another big lesson I learned? I realized that highway driving may have been a bit more than we should have tackled for his first drive out of the gate. Telling my kid to slow down to 25 mph at a turnabout meant nothing to him. When we almost took the turn on two wheels, a handful of grey hair may have sprouted from my head.
Oh, and by the way - yes, you can mentally block out trauma immediately when scared out of your wits. And .... apparently, I swear in German.