Cabarrus

Bond with teen: Teach driving

This is how you bond with your teenage child: Teach him (or her) how to drive.

My son, Erik, was 19 when we finally got around to it. My husband, Ralf, who is a linguist and studies brain development, will explain to all who will listen that the human brain is not fully myelinated until the late teen years.

It is therefore not sensible to let young teenagers drive, though they can be trusted with learning a foreign language.

It is difficult to kill someone with grammar.

"Before we begin," I said on our first day out, "I must explain something: Cars made and sold in the South do not have turn signals."

Erik eyed me quizzically.

"I have lived here for decades. The evidence suggests that our local cars do not sport this particular amenity," I said. "This explains why other drivers will turn at unpredictable and wholly random moments."

I continued.

"Imagine," I suggested, "that you have two passengers in the rear seat. One is a 100-year-old woman. The other is an infant. Endeavor to drive in such a way that neither passenger throws up on you. Let's get started."

At first, we drove around hills and valleys of a nearby subdivision. I did not lose my lunch, though I did re-enter the house asking Ralf for chamomile tea.

After a week, we graduated to higher speeds and straighter roads. I repeated myself a lot.

"Slow down, Erik. Slowdown slowdownSLOWDOWN!"

"I'm braking, Mom," he'd say calmly.

"Not enough!"

We stopped in time. Erik turned to me, grinning.

"Don't do that! Look at the road!"

After a week, my arms were sore from my death grip on the arm rests. I limped slightly because I had twisted my ankle stomping on an imaginary brake pedal.

We discussed a lot during each session.

"I'm drifting out of my lane," Erik would note. Then he would offer a detailed analysis. "I think my left hand is higher up the wheel, so when I turn to center, I go off course. Then again, maybe I'm just rationalizing."

"You're doing really well, honey," I said, comfortingly. "Focus on the road."

As the days went by, Erik acquired a driving style not unlike Ralf's: Gentle, easy and companionable. I liked it. We concluded he was ready to take the DMV's road test.

And he was. He passed.

On the way home, a stoplight turned red.

"Stop?" Erik asked. He paused, then: "I can't believe I just asked that question."

"Me neither," I answered.

The light turned green.

"Go?" Erik asked.

He turned to me, grinning.

"Focus on the road," I said.

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