He could not wait to get behind the wheel of the car and start driving. I had known Caleb would be different than my oldest, who was always the cautious one. JJ had taken his time with learning to walk, not willing to try it until he was fifteen months old. He did everything with careful consideration before attempting anything new. He was the same way with driving. He took his time, but we did not have to spend much time in the parking lots before I felt he was ready for the main road. He even drove the entire way home after passing his permit test. It took him over two years to finally get his license, and now he is driving (my car!) all the time. I worry about him, but know that he is still the cautious one, and hopefully will remain that way for life.
Caleb is a different child. He always threw caution to the wind. It was jump first and then consider his next move as he plummeted to the ground. Sometimes it happened seven or eight times before he realized he should do something different in order to protect himself. I had no idea what that might mean the first time he got behind the wheel, but then again, with his huge flipper of a foot, I wondered what might happen when he pressed the gas pedal for the very first time.
He passed his permit test with flying colors, but he did not drive home that day. It was not until after business hours that we went to the empty parking lots of some businesses and I let him climb into the driver's seat. I sat in the passenger's side and began instructing him on all that he needed to know in order to drive for the first time.
"Okay, Caleb, first of all, make sure you put your seat belt on, which is very important. Plus it is the law. Next, you need to adjust your mirrors to make sure you can see behind you as well as along the sides of the car."
Caleb proceeded to do all these things accordingly and I went on. "Now, to make the car go you need to press the gas..."
Suddenly the car revved into high gear, but we did not go anywhere as he pressed the pedal before I even finished speaking.
"Caleb!" I hollered. "You need to listen to all of the instructions before you even try to go!"
He glanced at me sheepishly. "I had no idea the pedal was so easy to push!"
I continued. "Now, BEFORE you put your foot on the gas, you need to put your foot on the brake and shift the car into drive." I waited for a second and glanced down at his feet. "Um, Caleb, you need to use your right foot on the brake, not your left. You never use your left foot while driving. The only time you use your left is in a standard car, but that is not what you are driving right now. This is an automatic."
Caleb looked at me aghast. "What do you mean I can't use my left foot? What is it supposed to do, just sit there not doing anything?"
"Yes, it just sits there. Move it as far away from the pedals as you can so it doesn't even try to get in the way."
"But it feels so weird sitting over here not doing anything."
"Trust me, it'll get used to it."
He shrugged, still not sure he liked the idea, but was slowly taking in everything he needed to learn.
"Okay, not put the car into gear, but take it S-L-O-W-L-Y, Caleb. There is no rush here."
I went on to explain a few more things and then finally he stepped on the gas and we inched forward. We drove around the first time without a hitch, but then it came time to stop. He hit the brake a little too hard and I flew back against the seat. He laughed nervously. "I guess I need to work on my stops, don't I?" he said.
Holding onto the handle over my door, I grinned nervously and told him, "You will learn, Caleb. These things come over time. That is why we are practicing in the parking lot though."
We crept around the lot, practicing stops and turns, and at one point he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is so different than Need for Speed. I had not idea driving was so hard! There is so much to remember!"
After learning that Need for Speed was a car chase game, I agreed with him 100% - video games are not the way to learn to drive. There is nothing realistic about any of them, and once you experience a real crash you quickly realize you do not bounce back onto the road again as if nothing ever happened. At least that is my experience...hopefully he will not learn that any time soon.
So, around and around we went, each stop getting a little better, and each practice turn getting a little better, though he kept saying how awkward it was that his left foot had to remain motionless on the side.
"How do you drive on long trips like this? Doesn't your foot fall asleep? Driving is so hard! There are so many things I have to pay attention to! I'm definitely not ready for the road yet."
I was glad he felt like that. By the time I had him climb out of the driver's seat so I could get in, I was a bit frazzled, but hoped I looked calm to him. I hate being the nagging parent who constantly has bad things to say about everything their child does, but when it comes to putting my life into my child's hands, it means a completely different thing. Needless to say we have taken our time with him, sticking to parking lots for quite a while, something I probably will continue to do until he is thirty years old. Joe has let him drive on the back roads a few times, but the last time there was a scare and I have not heard Caleb ask to go driving for quite some time now. I know it will happen again, probably sooner than later, but parking lots are my friends. Besides, I have three more up and coming drivers that I need to teach how to drive after Caleb....I think parking lots are a great place to learn.