My Teenager Isn’t Driving Yet, but Her Friends Are…

My daughter’s friends are driving and a new row of gray hair has suddenly appeared on my head. I thought we were safe until July, until my daughter’s 16th birthday; that bittersweet day when we go to the DMV and she smiles pretty and gets a license to freedom and we post the pic to Instagram. I’m slowly preparing myself for nail biting hours of waiting for her to safely pull into the driveway. What I didn’t anticipate so soon was her friends driving her around….I need to meditate.

She will be in a car with other teenagers. But isn’t there that law that says for the first year the teens can only drive with one other kid in the car? That little law, as inconvenient as it may be, that allows some of my hair to stay dark brown? That little law that aren’t all you other parents following?? Yes. There is such a law. But from what I have heard from other parents around town is everything from “Yes, we strictly enforce it!” to “Well, we try to enforce it, but it’s really hard,” to “Oh that’s ridiculous! When we were young, we crammed 8 people in a Honda Civic and didn’t even wear seatbelts.” I need to call my colorist.

I get the inconvenience of this law, but as a first time parent of a teen driver, I was really excited about it because it bought me a teeny tiny sense of more security when my daughter gets in the car to drive with someone that’s not me. Will there be giggling? Yes. Will there be loud music? I assume yes. Will there be some distraction? Probably. But two passengers vs. five sits a bit better with me this early on in the driving game. When my daughter drives, we will be strict that she only has one teen with her in the car for those first months. But how do I enforce who she gets in the car with?  I wish that all parents were on the same page with the law. Now certainly I can tell my daughter that under no circumstance is she to get in a car with a friend that just got her license if there are more than just the two of them. It is the law. But plans change hourly with these kids. What could be a car of two could go to four in a heartbeat.  I need some advice.

On one hand, what example am I setting if I allow this rule to be broken? If we fudge here, does that mean it’s ok, sometimes, to text when you drive, to ignore the hands free laws? On the other hand, it is a very restrictive law, an inconvenience for many carpoolers, and I have heard some say it is plain unrealistic. Even some of the most responsible and ‘strict’ parents I know are lenient with this rule.

New drivers are out there, with more than one kid in the car. And we may need to bend some rules. I am confused here and don’t know how to proceed. We’ll have to move onward most likely with some flexibility (and a lot of deep breathing)  depending on circumstances as I’m learning the more we try to control our teenagers, the less the control works. I believe in some very solid non-negotiable ground rules and expectations, however, I’m seeing the need for some ‘learn as you grow,’ while we’re in the thick of these teen years. I don’t like it. Uncertainty is scary, but wow is it an ongoing theme of life. I need some patience.

I was one of those teenagers in a car filled to the brim with big hair and neon clothes and The Cure playing too loudly on the radio. I drove without a license. Times were different then. Weren’t they? Or is it me that is different, older, wiser, better dressed and just plain scared to let my whole world live a life outside of me? Yes. To all of it. So tell me parents of teens, what do you think? Where do you stand? How are you navigating these new days of your teens driving? I am quickly turning all gray and cultivating patience while awaiting your advice.

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