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Almost 18 And She's Almost Driving....

My kid is probably the oldest kid in her driver's ed class, but I'm OK with that.

This is it, the final frontier of parenthood…letting my kid drive my car.

OK… so she’s almost 18-years-old and she’s still pretty grumpy that I wouldn’t let her drive at the scary old age of 15 ½. But I had my reasons (and they were darn good ones) for not letting her drive. I knew one thing – that if I couldn’t see the maturity level brewing in her (like it is now), then I needed to keep those keys clenched in my hand until God himself made me let go of them.

Having been the second shift cops reporter at the Kenosha News, I’ve been privy to one too many car crashes that ended rather poorly for teens. Her making a left turn scares me. Her driving at night scares me. Her talking on her cell phone while driving scares me. Her being without me telling her what to be careful of terrifies me.

Sigh…

I have to say that while enduring her plea for the keys, I had flashbacks from my youth that also prevented me from handing them over. My dad wouldn’t let me drive his coveted pick up truck (a shiny silver 1987 Chevy) until I had successfully parallel parked the 1942 Case tractor we had (the one with the crank and electric start) in our field.

He also purchased a huge chunk of a truck we called the blue bomb, which he made me drive for a year. It was a 1979 F-150 that had a hole in the floorboard, a five-speed manual transmission on the floor, an AM radio and a white cap that almost fit. We hauled 45-pound feeder pigs in the back of the truck to an Amish farmer’s market in Kidron, Ohio. And yes, for an entire summer my job was to take the little piggies to market. Admittedly, I was not one of the popular kids when it came to cruising down Market Avenue in Wooster, Ohio.

Anyway, the blue bomb was a disgusting beast that was not kind to a novice driver. Once, I took my little sister to her cello lesson and put the emergency brake on. While letting the blue bomb slide back out of the steep driveway and onto the street in neutral, I went to pull out the emergency brake that I had realized that I left on only to find that it was stuck. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so I had my little sister go in the house and call my dad. The police showed up and shut down the road while my dad’s mechanic made a ‘house call’ to repair the emergency brake… in the middle of the street. My embarrassment lasted for an hour.

I also had visions of how I used to pine for those few hours of perceived freedom in my dad’s Chevy. After well over a year of tractoring and toting around various animals in the blue bomb, I finally got him to let me take a weeklong trip with my aunt to Canada in the Chevy. We were headed up to some moose-ridden place that was north of North Bay to go camping and we had only been on the road for an hour when I got in my first car crash.

The brown blur I couldn’t avoid hitting ended up being a doe, which must not have realized that six cars were coming straight at her at a rate of 55mph on I-90. She went leaping and flying through the air.  Her body hit the corner of the Chevy. The back legs smashed the windshield. The front legs dented in the door and her head smashed into the driver’s side window. The whole scene was rather gory really. Luckily, we had our seatbelts on. Luckily, I didn’t panic. Luckily, I kept driving the truck straight and avoided hitting the cars in front of me. I was screaming, my aunt was screaming... glass was everywhere.

But I was OK.

After talking to my dad, my aunt said we could either go home, or we could get the car fixed and keep going.

“Let’s keep going,” I said. “I really want to postpone seeing my dad’s face when he sees what happened to that truck.”

Off we went and the rest of the trip I was fine, but I was nicknamed the “Bambi killer.”

So when I think about my kid driving, I think of all of these stories. And I realize, my parents let me go and I turned out OK, people live through this stuff. You can’t just keep ‘em in a crib with bumper pads I suppose.

Which reminds me… I think the kid needs to spend a little more time with her grandpa and a certain tractor.

Denise Lockwood January 11, 2012 at 02:42 PM
By the way... I'd love to hear your teen driving stories.
Kelly Brindle January 11, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Wow, I can't help but comment on this one, all three of us have interesting stories about our driving experiences and dads vehicles. All I remember was if one of us did something to a truck/car he'd ask "Are you okay" first and if we answered "ya, I'm okay" it was then followed by "what the hell happened?". I remember I had taken my first driving test in the full size Bronco, no one practised with me so I failed..:(. After practicing and learning to shift the 1988 Ford Mustang for the first time with Dad (Oh that was pleasant *sarcasm*), I passed. I have a relatively tame story compared to Denise, as far as vehicle abuse, I was chasing a guy. What can I say, I thought he was cute! Anyhow, Dad's new "Red" Truck, I ended up ditching because the road was narrow...or I wasn't paying enough attention, could of been both. I don't remember doing major damage but it was scary all the same and telling Dad was even scarier! I don't think any of us "Lockwood babes" where mature enough to drive when we got our licenses, but Dad must of saw some potential in us all(or maybe he and mom just got tired of driving us all around town). As far as your kid, sis, she's ready, you done good!
Denise Lockwood January 11, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Poor dad... three girls... he should have kept us driving tractors.
Pamela January 11, 2012 at 06:21 PM
I come from a large family with 7 siblings. Mom and dad set the rules early on for all of us children and never broke them.... EVER. To keep things fair, none of us got to drive the family vehicles. Period. Except for the time my second oldest sister snuck my dad's 1965(?) black caddy out for a quick drive, around our "country" block. I remember it had long fins on the back of it and she ended up taking the very first curve very wrong. She ended up hitting a "country" tall mail box, with the driver's side fin! She said she was afraid she was going too fast and thought she was going to tip the car over if she turned the steering wheel too much and ended up crossing the center line and then all the way into the gravel on the opposite side of the road!!! Ooooo.... did she get in trouble! Let's just say, none of the rest of us would ever dream about taking one of the family vehicles for a spin, anytime, anywhere. Ha! Ha! Ha! Back to their rules, You did not get a license to drive until....... One: You have a job. Two: Your job pays you enough to afford your own car insurance. Three: You buy your own car and learn to drive with it...... So, I practiced driving in my own car, with my eldest sister, when I was close to 20 years old. :/ My husband and I, opted for the same rules with our children and my daughter was able to purchase her first car and get her license when she was 18, and yes, my rotten child rubs it in every chance she gets :) Ha! Ha! Ha!
Denise Lockwood January 11, 2012 at 06:25 PM
LOVE that story!
mau January 12, 2012 at 01:01 AM
I should be dead. 16 years old, cruising down a wash board dirt road at about 80 miles an hour, got a blow-out. I can't remember how I stopped that car without rolling over. This is just one of the many such adventures I went on. Thing is my parents didn't find out about most of them and the ones my mom did she covered up for me. I grew up on a farm and I grew up on a tractor. My dad had a 52-54 Ford Pick-up we called the Blue Bird. It had a stick shift on the column. All 4 of us learned to drive with that truck. My dad would get in the truck with us, show us how to shift, and then get out and away we went. We started out practicing in the fields and pasture. Our farm was on a corner with a driveway that circled to both roads. Always on the lookout for cops, we would drive out onto the road, around the corner and back into our driveway.
Lyle Ruble January 12, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I too lived in the country the last three years of high school. Kids were driving long before they could get a driver's license. However, my mother the neurotic, let me get a learner's permit when I turned 16, but would never let me practice. She could come up with every excuse under the sun to keep me from driving, even after I finally passed by driving exam, after two tries and over 17. Needless to say, it was embarrassing because my dating had to be coordinated with one of my friends who could drive and a double date. There was one young lady who had indicated she would be interested in going out but she didn't like double dates. The spring dance came up she agreed to accompany me and to allow my friend to drive with his date. My friend had recently gotten his license and his parents wouldn't allow him to drive the family sedan but their 62 Volkswagen beetle. The two young ladies were dressed in prom dresses with numerous layers of petty skirts. After the dance he decided to take the long way home which included a gravel rode. Admittedly he was showing off a bit and took a corner too fast sliding us into the ditch upside down. The first thing that came to mind after stopping was I was buried in petty skirts. We did a quick check to make sure no one was seriously hurt and finally crawled out of the windows. Once outside we turned the car up on its wheels and pushed it out of the ditch. It was drivable and we took the girls home. My friend didn't get in trouble, but I did.
Lyle Ruble January 12, 2012 at 02:30 AM
(continued) My neurotic mother was not concerned about the fact that I had been in an accident, but since I was the oldest in the group that I hadn't insisted on everyone going to the hospital to get checked out. I couldn't win for losing. Needless to say, my date would never go out with me again because I had insisted on the double date. Thanks Mom!
Denise Lockwood January 12, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Oh man... what a story Lyle!
Denise Lockwood January 12, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I'm glad you made it through all of that. I actually started driving a tractor when I was 11. And it was the tractor in that photo.
GearHead January 12, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Thinking that early work and driving experiance was good for you, but where are the no-child-labor activists on this? Seem to remember there was a bill or administrative rule floating around about requiring drivers licenses for any farm worker. Not sure where it went, but it would basically kill the ability for a kid to get any real experiance working the family farm. So it is today. You were blessed to live in an earlier era, even though we all know there was a thousand ways to get maimed around farm equipment. My parents would threaten shipping me off to the sod farm to build character, but fortunately my character came around without it.
mau January 12, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Personally I don't remember any farm kids in our area getting killed or hurt using farm equipment. Usually deaths or major injuries happened to adult males handling bulls or tipping tractors or logging accidents. There were also deaths inside silos from the gas. It was rare that farm kids were left unattended. I would guess I was younger than 10 when I learned to drive the old John Deere GP. That is one of the really old tractors that still had the fly wheel and we never touched that. Dad used that for hooking up to a saw and cutting wood. This is one of the issues that concerns Wisconsin farmers as this would even affect 4H projects like showing cattle and hogs. There is also a proposal to require cdl licenses for anyone operating farm equipment. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/15/child-labor-rules-white-house_n_927551.html

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