In the last six months I have surpassed a couple of mothering milestones I never thought I’d reach. It still feels rather surreal that they have been reached. First, my oldest of four daughters began driving a car, not big wheels, not a four wheeler, not a ride-on lawn mower, an actual 4,000 plus pound vehicle; on roads, with traffic and stop signs, not the fields on our farm or the class four roads often found in our neck of the woods, real, yellow and white lined roads. The phrase my husband often jokingly says, “keep it between the ditches”, has taken on a whole new meaning.
So she is driving. It is sobering.
All of a sudden I flashback to my 15 year old self. I cringe first, then I feel really, really old. I’m only 37, but I turn 80 in the time it takes her to crank the engine and shift the transmission from park to drive. I am not ready for this. You think you had anxiety over dropping Tina or Tommy off at their first day of daycare/preschool/kindergarten? You got nothin’ on the mother of a teenager behind the wheel. Apples and Pine cones friends.
My best advice for mothers of learner’s permit toting teens? Get reacquainted with some slow breathing techniques. I’m not kidding. This is a great article explaining some popular and proven breathing techniques, and here is one on the health benefits of prayer/meditation, and another on the many benefits of relaxation. In short, find what works for you and take a deep breath before sliding into the passenger seat.
Or if the stress of teaching a teen how to drive is just too anxiety evoking, (as it is in my case), enlist the help of a trusted friend/relative. For me, that person is my husband, who is somehow able to channel an infinite amount of zen infused laid-backness. Trust me, it’s better for all involved that he teach her to drive.
And one last piece of advice: I thoroughly and enthusiastically recommend the driving app called “Road Ready“! This app is all sorts of amazing. Here are a few highlights from the website:
- Track your time
- Learn safe driving practices
- Track driving conditions
- View driving summaries
- Download your driving log
- Know your goals
- Receive parental pointers
- Reach your goals
- Identify areas of improvement
- Track your teen’s progress
And the second milestone? Puppy love. Though we don’t officially allow our children to “date” until they are 16, we have recently begun navigating the hormone infested waters of boyfriend-girlfriend relations. My eldest daughter was “asked out” this past Friday at a football game by her would be suitor and she said yes. He is a great kid and I think all in all I am very lucky, given her selection, and though this is all still new to me, I have compiled a list of advice, because trust me, you too will be in my shoes one day. Rolling over, climbing out of the crib, getting potty trained, and try as I might to stop it, time marched right over me.
My princesses grew up.
Nancy’s Top 5 Tips for Parents of Dating Teenagers:
1. Have the awkward talks with your kids early on, and repeatedly. Adjust content based on age and maturity level as appropriate. Inject humor intermittently to said talks.
2. State your expectations, rules, guidelines, curfews etc., loud and clear. Email them to your teen. Text them to your teen. There can be no ambiguity. Teenagers are amazingly adept at exploiting loopholes. Close all loopholes. Do not let ignorance of your rules be an excuse.
3. Be consistent and follow through. If the rule is no solo outings until XYZ, then no solo outing/dates until XYZ. Door. Stays. Open. Trust is earned, not given. You need to find a happy medium somewhere between helicopter parent and cruise ship parent. Don’t hover so close you push your teen to rebellious off limit frolicking, but don’t sail so far off in the distance, your presence is blurred in the horizon.
4. Become uber tech savvy. IPhones, laptops, Facetime, texting, Skype, SnapChat; don’t just learn the lingo. Read the terms and conditions, lay down ground rules, time limits, etc., Judy wants unlimited texting? Maybe she makes dinner once a week if the cell phone bill goes up.
5. Communication. With everyone. With your teen, with your spouse/partner or parenting team, with the young suitor, with the suitor’s parents. Communicate often. Get on the same page. Revisit number 1.
Follow these tips and when that young heart-throb comes knocking at your door, you should be all set. Though it may be a little sad and awkward to see your little princess starry eyed and holding hands with a young lad, fear not, you got this. And if not, threaten to bring out the toddler years photo album. Remember that potty training milestone we talked about earlier?