Safe (Whew!)

This is my fair warning to you all… Kid A has gotten her driver’s license.

Against all odds (and by “odds” I mean the fact that she usually drives ten to twenty m.p.h. below the posted speed limit and she hit every. single. one. of the cones during the parallel parking portion of the road test), my first-born now holds a Class D Provisional License from the State of Georgia.  I am frightened.

I have already reconciled the fact that learning how to drive and getting a license is a necessary right of passage for any human being who wants or needs to get anywhere in life.  I know this because I spent a lot of time considering which major cities she could possibly live in that employed practical and accessible mass transit options.  Then she wouldn’t ever have to drive.  Yay!  Problem solved.  And despite Sheepdog setting a really great example of how you can get almost anywhere using two wheels plus public transportation, Kid A was not having it.

I have also reconciled the fact that (even though it may be my deepest, darkest wish) I can not control everything.  My children will grow up.  They will fall down.  They will succeed a little and fail a little.  And some, if not all of them, will get into accidents while driving.  Shiver.  Here’s to hoping for fender benders and nothing worse.

Girl drivers rule! Marcia sure wasn’t the one who hit the cone and broke the egg. Enjoy your omelette, Greg!

The day of Kid A’s driving exam was looming and I was still struggling with the fact that she could be legally behind the wheel very soon.  She was continuing to improve but her driving skills were spotty at best.  She would have really good days and then she would cut off four people in under a mile.  She was super confident from all of her practicing, while I sat helpless in the passenger seat.  By this point I had gotten my gasps and sighs under control because they just made her more nervous.  I know this because she mentioned it once or twice (or 3,077 times).  So now at least my silent clenching muscles were getting a really great workout.

It was decided that it would be best for everyone involved that Sheepdog take her to the Department of Driver Services on the day of her scheduled exam.  It was also decided that she would be solely responsible for gathering the required paperwork for said exam.  She had been practicing for months and was taking the road test in my mom’s car (a nice and safe 4-door sedan) because she couldn’t drive a manual transmission (Sheepdog’s car) and she was very uncomfortable driving the XL SUV that we use to cart around the whole family plus luggage on trips.

So it is the day of the test and Kid A and Sheepdog head out of the house as the rest of us yell, “Luck!”  But after several minutes they are both back inside the house, scrambling and worried.  During a last-minute paperwork review it was determined that the insurance card for my mom’s car had expired two days prior.  The premium was paid in full, yet the DDS would accept nothing less than current proof of insurance, which we did not have.  I proudly refrained from calling Kid A a dumb ass for not realizing this sooner, although I thought it really loudly in my head.  I also thought that it was the universe’s way of telling her that she wasn’t ready to get her license and I breathed a sigh of relief that she would not be driving alone, at least for a little while longer.

But, no!  In a bold move, Kid A said “Stick it!” to my universe theory.  She was stubborn and proud and confident and determined to get her license on this day.  She climbed behind the wheel of all 222.4 inches of our Yukon XL (which she had only driven once more than a year prior, swearing never to wrangle that beast again) and headed out to take her test.

I wasn’t even a little surprised when I got the call from Sheepdog that she passed.  She is a very safe driver and she continues to get better every time she goes out to practice.  And she showed us that she can handle pressure with grace and style by the way she stepped up and drove a completely unfamiliar monster vehicle (c’mon… it’s almost a bus for all intents and purposes).  I mean, she should have earned her commercial driver’s license after passing in that thing.

It has been several weeks since the test.  She even has her own car now.  It is much more reasonably sized and very safe (with something like 72 airbags inside, to make her mother feel better).  She has improved exponentially since she started driving alone, so I feel a little better about letting go of control.

But not totally… she still has to text me when she gets where she is going.  So now I anxiously await the “Safe” message from both Sheepdog (after he rides his bike into work) and Kid A every time I look at my phone.  I see those words and I unclench, at least until the next time.  Baby steps, folks.  I’m a work in progress.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Tell Us a Story

It is important that Sheepdog spend as much time with our daughters as possible, else they are more likely to become meth addicts or end up headlining at Delilah’s Den.  Without even being aware of it they are setting their own relationship standards for the future, and they are learning mainly by watching him.  So, technically, if one of them ends up grinding one-night-stands on the dance floor or is referred to as the girl who knows how to “hook a steak up,” it would be all Sheepdog’s fault.  No pressure there, right?

As I am acutely aware of this, I encourage any and all father/ daughter interaction.  Over the years they have tried many activities together.  They have done the standard dinner and a movie date many times, but it does not really allow for enough quality conversation.  They have also gone the more active route of biking and running, but those sports require that the parties be on at least similar skill levels in order for everybody to have a good time (you can’t really talk if you are constantly panting and on the verge of passing out just to keep up).  Hiking was a great alternative until the girls had to go in the woods and got all freaked out over squatting in public and wiping with leaves (they get that from their mother).  So on to other activities they went.  We are not giving up.

Recently Sheepdog has been taking Kid A out to practice driving.  I don’t care if your daughter is Danica Patrick, teaching a girl to drive is fraught with peril.  And frankly, Kid A is not exactly a natural behind the wheel.  She and Sheepdog did not do well together in an enclosed vehicle, especially after he yelled at her (in his defense, she almost ran over two pedestrians).  After I went out to practice with her a few times (promising myself that I would not raise my voice or clench or cry while sitting in the passenger seat, so as to not derail her already wavering confidence), I was so scared that I actually called the local driving school anonymously.

Instructor:  “Good afternoon, Johns Creek Driving School.  How may I help you?”
Me:  “Hi.  I am not going to tell you my name on purpose.  My kid has been practicing her driving for a while now and she is still really bad.  I mean REALLY bad.  Just awful.  I don’t even want to let her out of the neighborhood yet.  Actually, I don’t want to let her out of our driveway.  She took your class this summer and she only has three months in which to complete her six hours of behind the wheel.  I don’t think that’s gonna happen.  What should I do?”
Instructor:  “It is okay, ma’am.  This actually happens a lot.  We can certainly give you an extension.  But maybe you should have her start her behind the wheel lessons and let one of our qualified instructors work with her.”
Me:  “You don’t understand.  I would feel responsible if she hurt someone or crashed one of your cars.  And I feel fairly certain that would happen.”
Instructor:  “It’s really okay, ma’am.  The instructors have brake and gas pedals and they have no problem taking the wheel if need be.  I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
Me:  “I don’t care if Jesus takes the wheel.  This kid is high risk.”

Sheepdog decided he was going to try again to teach our daughter to drive.  He figured that he should get her driving in a more relaxed atmosphere, so he took Kid A and Kid C (Kid B was at dinner with her soccer team) to the Andretti Speed Lab in Roswell.  This place is as cool as the name implies.  They have rock climbing, video games, a ropes course, pool tables, bowling, basketball, a comedy club, and the main attraction – extreme SuperKarts, complete with 9 hp Honda GX-270 engines in them.  And it was a twofer in that he got to spend some quality daddy/ daughter time together with the girls.

Is it too much to ask Kid A to wear this while driving a regular car too? Cause I'm certainly gonna be wearing one in the passenger seat.

Round and round the track they went.  Sheepdog had a blast.  Kid C didn’t drive by herself because she was afraid at first, but she and Sheepdog have another date planned there so she can learn to drive soon.  Kid A apparently acquired some decent driving skills on the track, although she still has a way to go before we release her on GA-400.  All in all, it was a great plan.  Way to go Sheepdog!

On the drive home the girls were pestering Sheepdog to bond with them some more.

“Tell us a story,” they begged.  “Tell us a story like mommy does.” 
“I don’t know any stories,” answered Sheepdog.
“Tell us about your first girlfriend, ” prompted Kid A.
“Well… define ‘first girlfriend.’  Do you mean the first girl I took on a real date or the first girl I made out with or what?”
Always looking for the more salacious details, both girls responded, “The first girl you made out with!”
Sheepdog though for a minute.  Then he began, “I don’t remember the details, but I guess I was in fifth or sixth grade…”
From the backseat Kid C (who is in fifth grade herself) yelled, “Well, I’m certainly not ready for THAT!”

I don’t know if Sheepdog is going in the right direction with this whole father/ daughter bonding thing.  He may need a little more coaching first.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…