It is a rite of passage for me and my youngest daughter. She will get her driver's license, and I will survive my last experience as a driving teacher. I'd rather help her with her writing. The driving experience will confirm the idea that sometimes the hardest people to teach are family members. For her part, she will know that learning from Dad is an exercise in patience. The truth is that we are both learning more about patience than about using the clutch properly.
After Amy is legally on the road, I will have survived seven student drivers and 12 Cub Scout pine-wood derby projects. Included with these honors is a singular automotive/hunting achievement I share with my son because I paid for the results of his award. He holds the Boone and Crockett award for the largest Utah buck taken by a Subaru. This is enough experience with kids and automobiles.The learning permit Amy earned at the age of 15.997 is a ticket for her to take parents for a ride. She is only legal if she has a real adult in the car; and as near as she can tell, I am a real adult. I go out driving with her in self-defense. This is the daughter who will raise my car insurance, increase my spirituality (I pray when she drives), bump the garage again (if she follows her older brother's pattern) and probably do the final deed that will get us a new garbage can. We've all grown out of tricycles at our house, so there will probably be no more twisted three-wheelers.
I also go driving because the driver's education program in rural Utah misses many of the finer points. In Sanpete County, for example, there are no stop lights, a whole county the size of some New England states and not a single semaphore to show students what light means stop and what means go. We also have no railroad crossings. We do have to watch for sheep, which have been denied highway signs like the cattle and deer.
The widest road in the county has two lanes, unless you count the main drags of Mt. Pleasant, Ephraim, Manti and Gunnison. These main streets have a farmer/slow/parking lane. There are no turning lanes, because we are all supposed to know where the Larsons or Larsens, Nelsons or Nielsens all turn to get the farm at the same time every day. We also all know where the deer cross, so the competition to take away my son's award still continues.
Amy's longest junket with me in the co-pilot's seat was from St. George to Beaver. She'd look over at me each time she shifted on the hills to give me a look that said she knew she would get better with practice. I asked if I made her a bit paranoid. "No, you make me parent-noid."
I assured her that I wasn't being judgmental. My white knuckles on the dashboard and on the handle of the emergency brake are simply a sign that she needs a bit more practice. "There is no need to be parentnoid. Your dad is just paranormal. Keep up the good practice."
Since she gets no driving experience on a freeway or where there are traffic lights, it is for the parents to take the first excursion to Provo or Salt Lake City, even if she has already passed the driving test that requires orbiting one of the pioneer blocks in Manti. This is obviously a job for a professional, not a paraprofessional like a paranormal parent, parenthetically praying that parallel parking prowess will return in time for a presentation of a past perfected performance. It is enough to make the student driver a bit paranoid.
Perhaps the generalization is wrong. It isn't always more difficult to teach my own kids. It is just more difficult to teach driving. Reviewing their writing assignments is routine in our family, and the kids know they can either take my corrections or leave them without giving offense.
The kids know what they want when they bring me their papers. Sometime they just ask me to go over it a bit to see if there are any glaring problems. Other times they want me to be brutal and want to see plenty of my ink on their work.
I admit that sometimes, as I read their papers, I wonder if what I am doing is fair. I rationalize that it is at least as fair as helping them with their driving and probably a bit safer. I assume that their teachers have the same philosophy as I have about students getting help. I want students to use every possible resource. I want them to use the spell check and grammar check on the computer. I want them to visit the writing lab and get their friends to criticize their work. Students should use the dictionary, thesaurus and parents if they can.
The idea is that this is how we write when we get in the world of work or academia. Most professional writers rely on editors to help make suggestions. News reporters always arm and pen wrestle with critical editors. Peer review is the norm in academia, and no good public relations person sends out a letter that hasn't been reviewed by other professionals.
I find that students who try to go it alone make the most obvious errors. Students who search out objective reviewers and ask for serious criticism hand in the most interesting written work.
Now I suppose the argument will be used against me by my student driver. I suppose that she will argue that she needs more passengers in order to become a confident driver. She needs friends who will point out the potholes, remind her to signal and refuse to ride without a seatbelt. She's right.