From Permit to License: A Parent's Journey with his teen driver

My first born got his learner’s permit this week. And as a friend wrote when I told him about this, “and now the fun starts.”

While learning to drive has long been a storied rite of passage for teens in America, it is also a period of transition for worried and anxious parents. We tell ourselves to be patient when our teen driver makes mistakes during the early morning practice session at the local office park or empty train station lot. We must be supportive, encouraging, yet ready to provide the wisdom of our experience during what can be some stressful moments.

And we must also be mindful that this time is stressful for our teen as well. They have cleared the first hurdle--acquiring the permit, a test that is not terribly taxing. Now comes the hard part: the hours of required road time, selecting and enrolling in a driver’s ed course, and studying the rules contained in the state-issued driver’s manual.

For parents, there are other emotions as well. We sit in the front shotgun seat, and watch our child, our baby, to our left, trying to navigate this large machine that, if not operated properly, can endanger both of our lives.

And we think back to all the times we watched patiently (that word again!) as our child tried to learn something new and difficult. Whether it was riding a bicycle or hitting a baseball or solving algorithms, every child’s struggle to tackle and overcome obstacles prepares them--and us--for the period between obtaining the driver’s permit and passing the license exam.

These months ahead will be an adventure for both my son and myself, and there will be moments that will not be fun for either of us. Thankfully, one tool at our disposal to get us through this learning period is Safe Roads Alliance’s Parent’s Supervised Driving Guide,   which we will have at the ready and consult whenever we feel overwhelmed or concerned about our child’s progress--or lack of same--behind the wheel. Safe Roads is grateful to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for providing free copies of the Parent’s Guide to every new driver who receives a learner’s permit.

My intent is to update you, the reader, on my son’s progress in the months ahead, as well as mine. For as he becomes a better driver, my goal is to become a better parent, and better teacher, as well as someone who can provide guidance and assistance on my boy’s path to adulthood.

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