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To save money, I taught my daughter to drive. It brought us closer together.

Janine Clements   

To save money, I taught my daughter to drive. It brought us closer together.
  • I had no idea teaching my teen to drive would be such a positive experience.
  • Our time together in the car became a bonding opportunity.

As any parent who has been through the teenage stage knows, navigating your relationship with your teens during these often turbulent years is challenging. When my daughter hit 13 or 14, she began pulling away.

Between her hectic schedule, seeing friends, and hiding in her room, I barely saw her. If I did see her, we'd usually have a brief exchange that went something like this: "How was your day?" I'd ask. "Fine!" she'd reply, walking away. Sometimes, she'd bite my head off because I dared ask her a question.

Although teens distancing themselves from their parents is part of growing up and becoming independent adults, it can make you feel disconnected. I felt like I was losing her, and I found it hard to deal with. When I taught her to drive, everything changed.

I never planned to be the one to teach my teenage daughter to drive

My teen was more excited about learning to drive than I'd seen her in a long time. We planned to book her lessons through a driving school like our parents had done when we were young. "Mom," she said one day. "You know, most of my friends' parents teach them to drive." "Likely story," I thought. I found out later it was true.

The thought of teaching her myself terrified me. Not only did I fear for our safety, but I also feared for our relationship. When I learned, my mom took me out occasionally to practice, but we rarely got very far without arguing — probably more my fault, as I thought I knew everything and hated anyone telling me what to do.

However, when I discovered the exorbitant cost of formal lessons, I wondered if I could actually teach her. If other parents can teach their kids, how hard could it be? It's not like she had to learn in a stick shift like I had. I decided to give it a go, vowing to remain calm at all costs.

The time we spent in the car became a bonding opportunity

For our first session, I took her to a huge, deserted parking lot. Despite me spending most of the time gripping the door handles so hard my knuckles went white as she tried to figure out how to steer, we didn't have a single argument — and she managed to avoid damaging the car. I began taking her out almost every day. She progressed steadily, and I relaxed. She was surprisingly talkative behind the wheel, and as we continued, our time together in the car became a bonding opportunity. We laughed, chatted, and grew closer. I looked forward to our sessions, and she seemed to enjoy them too.

Despite a few tense moments, we never once argued, and both managed to keep calm, although it wasn't always easy. There were times when I took a few deep breaths, or I would sense she gritted her teeth, like when I yelled, "Brake," for the hundredth time.

I had no idea it would be such a rewarding experience

When the day came for her to take her road test, I booked her a formal lesson right before so she would know what to do. She passed on her first attempt with minimal points deducted. It was not only a considerable achievement in driving but also in strengthening our relationship. I was so proud of her and of myself. Now it's over, I miss it.

Teaching my daughter to drive was daunting but ultimately very rewarding. It brought us much closer together and helped bridge the gap that often separates parents from their teenage children.

Janine is a freelance writer and editor based in New York. Follow her on Instagram @britmominny.

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