Pausing To Reflect with Lisa Foster
March 15, 2022

Look Who's Driving!

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In this week’s episode, it’s all about teens and driving! Join me and my dear friend, Kendra Miller, as we discuss the coming of age fears and processes of teaching our children to drive. We talk about the journey of emotional preparation we place on ourselves and share and implied expectations we put on our kids when they reach that milestone. Join us on our Facebook group at to share your stories and resources. And don't forget to follow Real Life Momz, so you don't miss an episode. --- This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast.


Welcome to Real Life Momz. I'm your host, Lisa Foster, and Real Life Momz is a podcast where real moms have conversations about real-life issues that parents deal with every day. Our mission is to connect moms by talking about these topics and to continue our conversation through our Real Life Mom Facebook group, where we'd love for you to become part of our community. And today we have my friend Kendra Miller to help me discuss the topic of driving everything from the process of getting their permits all the way to their license, as well as just how to help them navigate this huge independent phase of their life.

Hi Kendra. Welcome to Real Life Momz. 

Hi Lisa, thank you for having me on.

Today. We are discussing driving and I'm really excited about this topic because just yesterday I was driving with my daughter and we had an oopsie already. Your son just took his road test, right? Yeah.

Yeah, he did. He just took his road test a couple of weeks ago and you pass.  I was hoping he passed. This would be a totally different conversation. Otherwise,.

What is the age there that they can get their license.

Here in New York, you can get your learner's permit at age 16, which is just the written test. Then once, once you have the permit, you are allowed to drive with somebody who is, you know, older and has their license and all of that. And if you take driver's ed, which is a certain number of hours of driving instruction and classroom instruction, then at the age, then once you've had your permit for six months, you can take the actual driving test to get your junior license.



So that's what he did. So, I just want to clarify, cause I'm already confused. So just FYI, it's very different here. Um, so you can get, you can get your permit before taking the driving class. Yes.

But no, it's just a written test though.

Right? So you get a book, just the written it's very different here. I will tell you after, but yes. And then you take the class now is the class just classroom learning or do you also get driving instruction too? Like does someone go out with you? Well, It's because of COVID like it's turned upside down the whole process because I remember when, when I went through it, I was in New York as well as the laws haven't changed all that much.  I took drivers ed over the summer. Normally a bunch high schools in the area offer driver's ed over the summer and you and your pals take driver's ed over the summer, you pile into a car with the shop teacher who doubles as the driving instructors. q And you know, you get your driving practice and that's driver's ed now with COVID.

They were not doing the actual driving portion of driver's ed. Somebody, whether it was your parent guardian or the driving school had to sign a form to attest to the fact that you had a certain number of hours driving instructions. So, you know, you're kind of, it's a little bit more loose in that sense.

It's an honor system. It's an honor system, like elementary school. And like, did they read 20 minutes a day? And you have to sign this thing, right? You don't want to send your kid back without reading. Right. You're like, oh yeah. You know, whatever it was. But this is different because this is like, life-threatening right. You're like, oh my God, that you have to have.

Teenagers, large machinery, other people in the area, like.

Out here, get this. Okay. out here you can be 14 and a half to take drivers ed, barely reaching the steering wheel people. It is scary. Okay. And so drivers, you need to take driver's ed though, before your permit and you're 15, you can be 15 to get your permit. So that's where we are. We're 15. Yes. Very scary. But there was no driving attached to it at all. Like it's like, Hey, you're in the car.

Let's get some 50 hours. Exactly. Right. And 10 of the hours need to be at night. Oh my God. Do you want to drive with your teen at night? Cause I have to say, I made my husband do that. I'm like I don’t like driving at night myself. Let alone being a passenger at night.  Yeah. Geez. Let's talk about how it feels to be in the car with a kid, just getting their permit or whatever. Whenever you stepped in that car.

I know I had some feelings about it. I'm wondering how you felt.

Well, I have to say so my, my son is a different child than my daughter will be. I felt fairly relaxed. My son actually, which is like surprising to hear myself say, it almost reminds me of when you and I went skydiving with you and I thought for sure we might be freaking out in the doorway of this plane. Somehow we were totally relaxed. Even when I think back about it now, I wonder how I was not completely freaked out, standing in the doorway of that plane.

And I truly was not. And it's a similar situation being in the car with my son for the first few times that when I think back, I wonder how was I not more nervous and freaked out about this, but I was fairly relaxed. And I think it's just because I really do trust him really, just that I think I just trusted his ability.

And plus we were just in elementary school parking lot. There was nobody around. I just had a sense of, you know, this is all we're going to do today. And he was a little bit nervous too. And I knew that his own nerves would prevent him from doing anything stupid. Like he's the kind of kid that when he gets nervous, he's going to be more focused and more careful as opposed to some other kids may be when they are nervous, they fall apart and they can't function. That's not my son.

When he felt comfortable to go to the next level, we would go to the next level. Now he had a couple of oopsies here and there.

But nothing major. He, he was his own worst critic. You know, he was able to critique himself and know what he had done and what he needed to do. I had signed him up for driving lessons, with a school, with an instructor one-on-one um, because they were starting to do that. I wanted him to get it because I am not a professional driver and I don't know exactly what they would take points on when he takes the test and the driving school, people know that. So I wanted him to have that experience with somebody who could kind of teach him to the test, so to speak.

Well, and it's so important because I realized like, I think we drive and we just do it. Right. It's not that we are knowing all the rules anymore. You know? I don't know. My daughter would be like, where does like, cause she's stopping so far back that you if their cars coming, I mean, granted, that's where the stop sign is, can you see, when you look both ways, you're seeing the tree and you don't see any cars coming cause you can't see at the stop sign. Right. So I agree that it's, there are definitely test rules and then there's like real driving.

And I do find myself saying this a lot I don't think you could do this on the test, but you know, in the real world…I don't know is good. And that brings me to the point is I don't think I should be teaching my daughter how to drive. I find myself doing that all the time. Yeah. Giving like other alternatives or for me, I think, yes. I trust my daughter. I do. And she is also very cautious. And the reason I really want her to drive is that I trust her more than anyone else. Right. If she's going to get in the car, I’d rather it be her, you know, her driving. But with that said, you know, it is scary. I, you know, my husband took my daughter out early, earlier. I went right on the road phase and, and, oh my God, I don't know if it's that I don’t sit in the passenger seat that often I didn't realize how close the other cars that are parked on the side are like, it could be like the whole time. I'm like move over, move over. Like, I think I'm in the middle of the road, you know?

And she was right, she was in the middle of the road. I just felt like that was really hard. So I think I was a little anxious. Um, and then you don't want to make them that's right. Of course. Right. So that I did not do a good job of doing that. And then the other thing is, you know, there is no control, right? There's the pretend break that you have on your side. There's no control. So what I ended up doing is like word vomit.

You know, the only, the only control I had was like to tell her what to do. Right. That's all I'm trying to do to take control. Thats not good. 

I mean maybe in the beginning, it's what I needed to do for my own sanity. Right. Not for her because now she's like, well now I feel like I need you to talk me through as I'm driving, you know, like so used to the verbal commands. So now I have to be like to have control still. I'm kind of now like quiet. And then I go, what are you going to do at the red light? You know, make it more of a question. Like, what are you thinking now? You know, like that. But I'm finally, I think our last drive, I finally got to the phase where I really was quiet and felt relaxed, but I mean, we're talking months of going out.

It was really hard for me. And I think it's, it's me, it's not, it's not her. She's good. It's just me. But, um, so anyway, yeah, so I, I think I'm still a little on edge and I'm hoping to where you are.

Well, we did have our moments. I can't, I mean, it was, it was mostly smooth, but we definitely had our moments where, you know, like you said, it is a definitely a different perspective in the passenger seat than the driver's seat. And, you know, yeah. There were times when I knew that if, if I were driving, I would be totally in control and I would feel fine. But being in the passenger seat, it did feel sometimes it seemed like we were moving too fast or too close to something else, you know? And I had to keep reminding myself that if I were actually driving what he was doing would be perfectly fine. But there were a few times when, you know, like if he was too close to the curb or something, and then I would get really nervous, like, oh my God, we're about to jump the curb here. Or, you know, so I'd have to just kind of gently say, oh, you should just scoot you to the left. Like very commonly. Yeah. And there were a few times when we first started going onto the more main roads in the very beginning, I did have those fleeting thoughts of, oh my God, what if a dog jumps out right now like you said,  you don't have any control and it's not like, um, it's not like I'm going to grab the wheel and you know, anything like that. So it's also interesting. So out there you have to have some amount of driving school instruction. We don't really have to have any, and my son was being a little resistant about it because by then he thought, you know, why do I need to get in the car with a stranger when, you know, I already know what I'm doing with you and you, you can teach me everything, you know how to drive.

And I said, yeah, I, drive, but I'm kind of on autopilot when I drive.

Meaning, I don't know the last time I read the rule book and it's just, some of it is just really automatic for me. So I don't know some of the questions that you might have or some of the things specific to the task. And I said, you know, it's kind of like, I can speak English and I do it automatically, but I'm not going to teach English. You know, can't teach it. But I know it. And it's the same thing with the guy. So I think having the instruction, and actually he didn't even get to finish. It was like a package of lessons and he didn't get to finish the lessons before he actually took the test because we had to reschedule some of them.

And so he just actually took his last one a week ago and it was after he passed, but they took him on the highway for an hour. We hadn't done much of, so I think that was helpful too. Cause he was literally on the highway for an hour. It's like on and off exits ramps and things like that. So that was helpful too. Cause we had only done that. A variable.

That petrifies me just, yeah. I would like the instructor to work on that or go really, really early in the morning when no one is up. Well you gotta start somewhere.  Yeah. Cause that is scary. That whole merging and on, and, off and New York it's even worse, Colorado. I mean, it's not as bad at all, but in New York it's not easy, but that also brings another point. Like you had mentioned like, uh, different scenarios and things like that when they have their permit and they're driving with you, it's like the only teaching time. Right. Once they get their license and you can tell me about this, cause your son now has his license. But um, my feeling is like, they, it's not like they want to have my advice anymore or get in the car with me and drive, you know?

Right. Yeah. It's like over, they've got their license, their on their own now, you know, the other day was pouring out here and normally I'd be like, oh, I'll drive it is raining, but when are they going to learn? So there, we were  driving in the pouring rain. And she was actually very calm. I was like, you seem really good. I'm a little bit of a mess, but you seem fine. She's like, yeah, I feel fine. And totally, I was like, okay, great. But you know what I'm saying? Like the snow, the ice, the things that are harder to drive, and actually almost want those scenarios for them while they're still learning and someone's there.

Yeah, definitely. Cause it can be, cause they don't know what they don't know. And so it can be scary for them if they're doing it by themselves for the first time and they think they're okay, but then, you know, one little patch of ice or something, if they kind of lose control, that would be a really scary feeling to have by yourself. And I think that would be really rattling. So yeah, we haven't really had that yet because we've only had, we're only just really getting into now, like the colder more wintery weather, although would make him drive in the rain a few times.

So he's driven in one night it was kind of, it was dark and it was a downpour and he happens to be, and so I said, well, you know, you have an opportunity to, to try it. You know, you can skip it because it's pouring rain.

But at the same time, it's probably a good opportunity to practice it. And so he did and he was, and again, it's because I, I trust him. So I didn't think he was going to be panicky or anything. And even if he, if he was, he would be okay, better for him to have that practice with me in the car. Then to first experience that by himself, he got his license and he thought for sure he was going to be driving all over the place. Cause I work from home now. So the car just sits in the garage. And so he thought he's going to just drive to school and he can drive his sister to school and he's going to drink and drive all around and you know, whatever.

And when the time actually came, he realized he didn't necessarily want to do that.

So he would drive to school and then I would take the car home and he would take the bus home or he'd get a ride home or, or whatever. Um, cause he was still a little nervous about navigating the school parking lot with all the kids and the buses and just the dynamics of that. We hadn't really practiced necessarily for him to get his license. But then the other issue that came up was like, even just today, they're on break. And he was saying, oh, you know, the boys are getting together at the school to play football.

And um, I need a ride and I was like, well you just take my car. And he was saying, yeah, I guess I could do that. He said, but then you know what? All the other guys are gonna want me to drive them home.

He does feel nervous about having his friends in the car to drive them around the thought of him driving with his friends makes them nervous. So he was afraid to take the car because that's just kinda how things go, you know, you know, when someone else is driving, they'll usually, you know, drive the rest of the guys home or whatever.  So cause he still just has his junior license where there are still some restrictions that you can't drive after a certain time and you can't drive with a certain number of people in the car.

And so there still are some restrictions until he turns 17. And then once he turns 17, he'll have a full license. So the way I'm looking at it is just, he has his junior license until he turns 17, which is only a few months away.

So I kind of figure he can use that time to, you know, drive to and from school or drive to and from, you know, places on his own, if he needs to go to the store or he wants to drop his sister off somewhere or just for himself to drive to a friend's house or something like that. But not to do things super socially that he would be in the position where he would feel like he needs to drive other people around just for the end, especially now because it's during the winter months. And so let him just get used to being in the car, you know, on his own or maybe with his sister in the car when I'm not in the car and just acclimate to doing that.

And then when he turns 17, he just automatically will get upgraded to the full license.

And at that point, if he feels comfortable driving his friends around there won't be any issue with that. He can do it. And, and then that's that, you know, so if he just has the few months of like this transitional period, which is, I think what it's meant to be for, so that's kind of how we're looking at it. Plus, you know, he's driving my car and you know, I don't don't want anything to happen to my car and I don't know, you know, like I just kind of want to keep it within the family for now. He doesn't have his own car yet when he has his own car, it could be a little bit different.

So that's kind of how we're looking at it. We're on the same page with it.

Well, and that brings me to a car, right? Yeah. I mean, exactly right. Cause I don't work from home, so I need my car. I'm not going to just divvy it out to my daughter, but yeah, that's, you know, the car? Someone once told me this and it just seems to stick with me is that if you have more responsibility like you actually saved by a car, you are gonna make better choices. Right. Cause it's something you really put your hard work into you earned it.

So you're not going to just get in there drunk and drive it or treat it like crap because you actually had to earn it. Right. So it's not valuing it. So that always sticks with me with what to do in the next phase. But yeah. Tell me what your thoughts are. Yeah. So the way I grew up was there was no way I was getting a car and when I was in school, I wasn't even really allowed to work. My parents just wanted me to focus on school. They didn't actually want me to have a job, even they just wanted me to focus on school. So I didn't really have much of my own money just maybe from summer jobs. And that was it. So certainly not enough to buy a car and they didn't want me to have my own car. They really weren't pushing it.

They didn't want it. So it was just known that when I got my license, I was not going to have my own car and I didn't until I was living off campus as a junior in college. But there was never a chance that I was going to have a car when I was 16 or 17 years old, that was just not happening.

And I think I've just kind of carried that mentality with me that, you know. Where is my son going? That he needs to have his own car and it's, it is an extra responsibility and expense and all of that. And the, not just the car, but the insurance and maintenance, gas, you know, ass. Yeah. It is a big expense and a big responsibility, which at the end of the day, even if it's his it's really because he's still a minor, still would be my responsibility. I feel like. And so, but having said that he has worked summers since he's 14, so he's worked three full summers already.

And he has saved his money to the point where he thought that he was going to be able to afford a decent used car at this time. And he probably have, except that just in the last few months, the prices of used cars have skyrocketed and it's become prohibitive to him.

The, the price is really just suddenly are like at a different level. Now I don't think that's going to happen so soon. I'm also thinking, you know, he's got a year and a half left of high school and then he goes to college and a lot of colleges don't allow kids, freshmen to have cars on campus. And so then now he bought this car and you can't use it. And then what do we do with it? And you know, so then those things kind of come into question, we've kind of just tabled it for now. And because I do work from home and he can take my car during the day, it's not really that much of a necessity for him to have his own car.

But yeah,.

There's so much I need to think about and talk about because  you know, there's obviously the expense, right? There's the expense can they afford it. But I think there's also a whole other aspect, which is that independence and freedom. Right. And as much as I think those words are amazing for those children, right. They scare the hell out of me. Right. All of a sudden there's my kid and very independent and free. So this car doesn't also represent just, you know, that finance piece, it also represents their ticket to have independence and not have to rely on like, oh, I can't take you.

So you're not going to go, you know, like, or I can't, you know, things like that, like all of a sudden that's gone and then what they do in the car, right. Like that backseat when they're sitting and chatting back there and you're just driving them around so much information comes out, you know, that's such a learning time that's gone. Right. So you're right. There's so much gone. Right. I'm getting myself depressed. But, but I think it's so much more, so it's not only the cars, it's just, the car is also that independence when it's at least still my car, you know, I still have that.

It's I have the control because it's my car. I, you know, I guess I, I guess I need control because it, then it's my car and I can choose to give it or not. Right, right.

Definitely. And if they have their own, you know, you're never going to see them again. I mean, I'm pretty sure I know when my son has his own car, I'm not going to see very much of him cause he won't be relying on me to drive him from. Cause a lot of our time now is spent in the car, just driving him to the different places that he needs to go. And that's when we can have a conversation and connect, you know, that kind of thing. And once that's gone, I feel, yeah. I mean, I'm not going to see him very much and that's, that's partly okay. And I do think it would be great for him to have some of that before he goes off to college. But, um, yeah, but I would be perfectly okay with him having that only for, you know, maybe the summer before he goes to college or six months or something, not a full year and a half, maybe I think it just comes, it just boils down to who your kid is. You know, you have to know who your child is and how they are viewing it. Just lots of things to think about, uh, with the driving. It's, you know, you go from being scared to death, right? Like in the passenger seat of the car, as they pass that car on the side, that's a little too close. Right. To you being scared to death because now they can drive anywhere and at any time and yeah. And just do anything.

Either, either way, there's something to be worried about or, you know, to be thinking about.

You're talking to you. It makes me realize, you know, just because they get their license, doesn't really mean they're ready to drive. Um, so getting her license does not necessarily mean that she's super ready to even, you know, be driving around, picking everybody up, doing all those things either. So that kind of makes me feel better after what you're saying. Um, and then, and that there should be even, cause we don't have that transition time of a junior license, but I guess they kind of say it like don't drive people around,  for six months.

But, um, but that makes me feel better because you know, taking that first six months to really get your feet wet and feel confident in being alone.

in the car. Yes. Because they're all, you can't have experienced all of the different things that could happen to you on the road, just because you've taken your road test and passed your license does not mean that you are really, you know, well equipped in all the different scenarios and you know, where we live in a suburb, but it's a little bit more of an urban suburb. And so there are parts of it where it really is more city, like, you know, where there's big buses and, you know, wider, you know, multi lanes on the road and just, there's just more going on.

And I do think that makes a difference also more scenarios that can happen, that he has not experienced yet. And I don't want him to first experience those things, with the car full of his friends, you know, or that kind of a thing.

Um, I think it's, you know, it's kind of all good and it's interesting to see how his own mindset about it shifted after he got his license. He thought for sure, once he got his license, he was going to get a car he'd be driving by himself. Like, and, and I think just the idea of it is like such a big rite of passage in such an exciting time and event that it's totally normal to think that way. But then once it happens, he was like, oh, okay.

I don't need to drive everywhere by myself. I'm okay. You know? And it just had just a different feel to it once it actually happens and he passed his test, he didn't really feel the way he thought he might. And I'm glad,.

Right? Like they might not actually feel emotionally ready for it. Right. For that actual next phase of life. So that's, that's a whole side I never thought about. So be interesting to see when that happens. Well, Kendra, thank you so much for talking about driving with me. I feel a little bit better actually. I feel like I, I feel like I'm going to get in the car tomorrow when I drive with her again, because we're trying to go every day and I feel like I'm going to just be okay with the word scootch, scootchy a little to the left and it's all good.

And it's all good. Yeah, no, she's good at that. Now she is no longer sideswiping any cars that I'm worried about. It's more than the merging that scarier, but that is, I can trust her just like you trust your son's.

Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Talking with Kendra really made me think more about my daughter who is learning to drive and starting out on her journey and come join us on our Real  Life Momz, Facebook group, where we can continue to talk about this topic of driving and just how we can navigate this new independence for our teenagers. And don't forget to follow Real Life Momz so you don't miss an episode.

Kendra MillerProfile Photo

Kendra Miller

I was raised in a traditional family of four in a suburb of New York City, with parents who are still in love to this day. I got my undergraduate and Physical Therapy degrees at SUNY schools and then worked in adult rehab for over a decade before starting a family. Once I became a mom, I switched gears and took an office job in utilization management, where I still am after 16 years (except now I work full time from home, which the cat appreciates very much). I am now a single mom of teenagers, one son and one daughter. I have learned a lot from my kids, and I hope they have learned a lot from me too. I enjoy singing, height seeking adventures, being outdoors in nature, country music concerts, and traveling to new places.