“You’re so controlling,” Twin A screams as she steers to the side of the road.
This outburst comes after lurching through our neighborhood with a grand finale turn that made me swallow the gum I had been manically chewing to distract me from my death seat position in the car.
Twin A comes to a stop, gets out, and storms down a side street. Twin B, who had been sitting in the back, also flees the car. While running to catch up with her sister, Twin B turns to give me a look of disgust that makes me feel old and mean.
I remain in the passenger seat and take note of how thankful I am to be parked.
A tippy three-legged stool is the best image I have for the relationship between my twin daughters and me during these teenage years. Teaching them to drive has been like sawing off one of the legs.
“We’re gonna walk home,” Twin B calls.
“Fine,” I think poutily as I plunk down in the driver’s seat.
It begins to rain so I loop around and find my driving students walking. They get in the car and the accusations start up immediately.
“We think you are sexist! You were way more laid back when you taught the boys how to drive.”
The sexist branding makes me crazy and they know it. Some variation of this conversation has been constant since the girls’ 16th birthday passed four months ago and they didn’t get their licenses.
It’s true, in the beginning I didn’t worry as much about the boys driving.
My relaxed attitude changed fast after our oldest son ended up under an eighteen wheeler on a snowy Chicago highway and then soon after our younger son embarked on a rogue morning adventure that ended in a car-totaling accident at a four-way stop.
Mercifully no one was hurt during either accident but this double miracle only serves to make me more fearful about the girls driving. I worry that all our family’s accident passes have been used up by the boys.
If that is sexist, then so be it.
To assuage my fears I’ve read all the guides on teaching teenagers to drive. They feature pictures of relaxed parents and teens smiling and list suggestions like, “Keep things light, ignore the slip ups, and praise good practices.”
Unfortunately for my girls, I’m the parent screaming STOP while grabbing the wheel and stomping my imaginary passenger-side brake on a simple straightaway.
As with the boys, we have invested in measures to help the twins become safe drivers. They’ve taken classes and completed professionally taught road hours.
The girls’ instructor is about eighty years old and drives on busy roads with newly permitted students with a sweetness that I truly envy. He gently admonishes me to increase the girls’ practice time.
“Perhaps it would be helpful to have your husband take on the driving hours,” he suggests.
To his disappointment, I inform him that my husband is even more skittish.
It is up to me to get the girls on the road. I’m just sixty practice hours and two driving tests away. I remind myself that my track record is good with milestones. Each of our kids is out of diapers, tie their shoes, read and write, and two have successfully left the nest.
I fully realize that getting a license is THE game changer for every teenager moving toward independence. I want the girls to embrace this new freedom. And yet I’m surprised to feel more tentative than I did with my sons. I think of the girls’ accusations.
It’s not just about the driving. As the headlines scream everyday, the world can feel like a more threatening place for women and girls. Although the dangers have always existed, the current political and cultural climate has dramatically brought this reality to the surface.
While teaching the twins to drive it has been difficult to relay a message of caution, both on the road and off, without hampering their sense of mastery and adventure. Added to the generic warnings about drinking and texting I think of desolate parking garages and flat tires at night. The stakes seem higher for the girls.
That’s not sexist, it’s the truth.
Yes to every single thing you said! My youngest daughter is the only human alive who has ever called me sexist, GASP. I was getting ready to defend all of it when one of the women on The View literally just reiterated how critical it is to raise your children with gender equality. Synchronicity for the win! In retrospect, I realize that I WAS sexist and I could have been much more protective of my son. At any rate, It took my oldest daughter two fender benders, and my son three, before they understood their limits. My youngest daughter seemed to have a grip from the beginning and in fact has proven to be the safest driver. She’s almost 21 and has a perfect driving record. If you want to be biased, remind yourself that girls are cheaper to insure for good cause.
Like you, my daughters are the only people to have ever called me sexist. Teaching them to drive has revealed my blind spots to gender equality. My daughters and I spend much more time together than I did with our sons at the same age. By the time the boys were learning to drive they had already pushed me away. We went through a more contractual stage of the parent/child relationship during the boys’ mid-teens. They had the appearance of being more independent. The girls and I are more tangle and I have to really watch for the boundaries of where I end and they each begin. A triad is a complex configuration. I LOVE what you said about needing to be more protective of our sons. I had unconsciously bought into the idea that boys are tougher. The truth is that the world is beautiful and scary for both genders. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Your words made me think. We still need to take our walk!
I know exactly how you feel!
It’s a very vulnerable process! Thanks for reading.
Another beautiful essay. For some reason, it reminds me of your NYC babysitting story and the scary taxi you jumped into. Those girls will get it eventually; they won’t want to be chauffeured by some creepy driver. And you can warn them based on your experience!
Yes, I thought of the night too while I’ve been teaching the girls to drive and watching the news. Thanks for reading.
Oh Liddy, this is gorgeous!! So honest and vulnerable. I can’t imagine how fraught this time is! And especially in light of all that is happening with ME TOO, the whole gymnastic scandal and Mr T…. I hope you can relax and know the universe will hold them, just as it has held you all these years. It’s the only way to let go of the fear….. I love you! kat
On Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 11:03 AM, Days in the Fifties wrote:
> Daysinthefifties posted: ” “You’re so controlling,” Twin A screams as she > steers to the side of the road. This outburst comes after lurching through > our neighborhood with a grand finale turn that made me swallow the gum I > had been manically chewing to distract me from my death s” >
I’m in Dallas this weekend at Georgia’s dance convention/competition and surrounded by hundreds of strong, smart, creative women and a handful of equally inspiring boys. They remind me that we did not come here to face reality but rather to create it.
“..we did not come here to face reality but rather to create it.” ❤ Wow! beautifully said Elizabeth! Thank you.
Teaching my kids to drive made me come face to face with gut-wrenching fear, and that’s when I realized that perhaps this was a job for dad. As you know, it gets easier with time and their behind the wheel experiences. Love that photo of them – good piece, Elizabeth.
Good suggestion Dani but Matthew is not the dad for the job. He used to love riding roller coasters but a couple of years ago he got scared and decided he was done. He put teaching teenagers to drive in the same category.