It’s definitely a “double-edged sword” when your Teen announces that she would like to “learn how to drive” this (past) summer. At 16, she is eligible for a student driver’s permit which means she can take lessons, and drive in a vehicle as long as another adult with a valid license is present to guide her. Under Philippine law, she can then convert that student permit into a proper license when she turns 17. Considering the scary statistics for driving, period, let alone, teen driving, one has to take a deep, deep breath before acquiescing. However, learning how to drive is a MAJOR Teen milestone, a sign of independence, a growth in responsibility… and so rather than fight or delay it… Mrs. MM and I both agreed that if she was going to learn how to drive, she might as well do it as professionally as possible.
The first non-negotiable item was that the Teen was to learn on a manual transmission. If she could master the stick, then and only then could she use an automatic transmission car. It seems a bit archaic to insist on this, but we wanted her to be able to drive in a stick shift car just in case, it’s a skill we consider useful. Like if she ever joined the “Amazing Race” series and had to drive in some weird location which only used cars with stick shifts… :) But really, it’s because learning on a stick shift makes you better appreciate how a car engine works, and how gears and speed are related… Of course the other rationale we used is that anyone in their right mind would only buy a fabulous sports car with a stick shift, not automatic transmission… so if she ever aspired to a beautiful two-seater classic sportscar, she would need to be able to handle a stick shift.
The second non-negotiable item was that we would NOT teach her ourself. We sent her to A-1, no, not the steak sauce, the driving school. Ten hours of professional instruction with a driver (whose methods I would probably disagree with)…but it wasn’t me, nor was it Mrs. MM or the Manongs (drivers) she had grown up with. She was a very QUICK study. Within two sessions or 3 hours of lessons her instructor had her driving to Greenhills from Makati, on EDSA and on narrow back roads! On her first day she stalled the car several times, but by the third lesson or so, I don’t think she ever stalled again. It was actually rather amazing how quickly one picks up a skill if they are determined to do so.
Once the formal lessons were over, we made sure the Teen practiced roughly 30 minutes or more everyday for the next month or so. It is here that her Mom and Dad and Manongs layered on the advice to the basic skills she had acquired. We covered safety concerns, parking issues, humps, merging onto fast traffic, de-fogging the windshield, etc. She drove on highways, busy city streets, village roads, etc. She parked the car in our garage, took it out frequently, parked parallel on the road again and again and again. She still thinks 40kph is a nice speed, but was able to nudge herself to 80kph on the highways…
The more she learned, the more we demanded. My dad was a rereational rally car racer, and my brothers race enthusiasts as well, so I learned some tricks from the old man. The Teen had to drive around our village with a plastic glass half-filled with water on the hood of the car, and it couldn’t spill. She nailed the task the first time around. I asked her to drive specific tires of the car onto marked “boxes” on the road in front of our house. A way of teaching her exactly where the tires were. We placed lines of tape on the asphalt and asked her to stop the car so that the front bumper was just shy of the masking tape, a way of knowing where the edges of the vehicle are.
Making sure you have enough gas when you start a trip, checking the back seat when approaching your car in a parking lot before you open the doors (to see if anyone is hiding there), looking around the vicinity before getting into your car, locking your doors, etc. are all the things that one has to drill into the Teen until she thinks they are second nature.
She is still very much a student at this point. But I think she will be a very good driver in the long run. As with anything important that we do in the MM household, I think education, preparation and practice are the keys to success. Oh, I just remembered, have to make the Teen change a tire on her own later today… :) Mrs. MM said that her dad told her that if she got a flat tire, she should get out of the car, flag down a cab driver, and pay him to change the tire. I told Mrs. MM, that wasn’t the way the Teen was going to do it. She agreed. :)