“That’s my girl”… although she wouldn’t thank me for describing her as such. Not now that she is 17 years old and obviously wanting to move on, which is one of the reasons her petite frame is now sitting in the driver’s seat of my little car and I am strapped into the passenger seat.
But hang on. I think – “this can’t be right”. It only seems like yesterday that I was strapping her into a car seat.
The car is parked on the drive in front of the house. I reversed it up earlier so that it was facing the ‘right’ way. This is my daughter’s first driving lesson and I am currently attempting to describe how to go about driving. I can drive; have done for years. But what has surprised me most about this exercise is how extraordinarily difficult it is to break down and describe to another the mechanism of how and what driving is. The art of trying to make conscious the thoughts that have, over time, quietly lain hidden behind what are now unconscious behaviours is quite a challenge.
But I shouldn’t really have concerned myself too much with the details, as whatever I was saying was clearly falling on deaf ears. My daughter’s attention was naturally elsewhere; her patience waning. My verbal efforts did draw out a response though.
“I got this.”
Her head swishes round as she clicks her fingers like some rapper might; her youthful confidence evident in her actions, the tone she uses hinting at a judgement, an opinion that it was time for me to “back off and shut up”. Message received and understood. I make one last attempt at instilling a sense of responsibility with the gentle reminder that a car is but another name for a lethal weapon and should be treated as such. If I were a religious person it would have been about now that I might have made a sign of the cross across my chest with my finger and send up a silent prayer for our safe return.
This is why, perhaps judged by others as somewhat premature, that I find myself moving away from talking about driving to actually experiencing someone else trying to learn to drive. I hand over the key and with that her head quickly disappears behind the steering wheel to locate the ignition key slot. Like a new lover she fumbles around for a wee bit before managing to insert the key and give it a turn. The engine responds accordingly and all too soon we are sitting on the drive with the engine idling. Her excitement is apparent; a sideways glance meets my gaze. It is full of triumph. I smile back. I hear at the back of my head a voice repeating one of my own mother’s mantras of old.
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’
(if you have read my previous post you might not be surprised to read that I failed again to spell angel right the first time – spelling is so frustrating)
So with a few last minute instructions regarding feet and gears… we’re off. And no surprises, the engine makes some interesting responses to a novice approach to driving. We lurch forward; the engine coughing and sputtering before it abruptly stops.
“This is harder than I thought” she acknowledges; her smile a pained expression, her brow now furrowed. Two attempts down and we have yet to make it off the drive.
“Not to worry.” I try to reassure. “As they say, ‘practice makes perfect’…It isn’t easy.” I watch her processing her own thoughts and feelings about the situation; her pony tail coming in for some rough treatment as she does. I encourage and suggest we give it another go
“Deep breath now.”
Gaining composure, she turns the key like an old hand and the engine responds.
“That’s it… relax… begin to pull your foot up off the clutch…gently now and at the same time begin to depress the accelerator…. release the hand break”, which she struggles with and strains to release. We ease forward …her hands on the steering wheel and mine on the door handle, alike, knuckles white…
I wonder how long it will take her to learn and pass her test. I might wish it to be sooner but that is way out of my control. In the meantime I will have to be content that this is a gift of an opportunity to come face to face with my own fears. Sitting here is not necessarily a comfortable seat to be in. It is as if I have knowingly relinquished control of my destiny to another and, if you were to ask her, for she can be a bit of a cheeky teenager sometimes, it would be too: “Yes of course – to a far more superior being”.