I’m an involved dad to my four daughters, who are 6 to 16. I’ve given them piano lessons, taught them how to fight, and have read the same books I-don’t-know-how-many times.
Along with all the things I do, I’m plagued with thoughts of what I don’t, particularly with my oldest. At 16, she’s had a job, plays the violin, and in middle school was on the boys’ varsity golf team. She is currently an exchange student in Australia, and when she comes home I’ve decided it’s time for private tennis lessons. Also, she might need a math tutor.
I was thinking of all of this the other day when I said to myself I should take her out driving, but don’t know if I’ll have time. And that’s when it hit me – this ridiculous notion that my daughter should be buckling down on quadratic equations and tightening up her forehand, but that driving can wait.
How Often Do People Drive?
In 2-3 years our teens will be driving every day. Some will go away to college thousands of miles from home. They’ll take road trips and we’ll wish them well.
I’m on the verge of sending my oldest out into the world with a stamped passport, but hardly any time behind the wheel. She will spend decades driving hundreds of miles every week, and it is almost guaranteed she will hardly ever play golf, the violin, or do complex math equations once I stop being able to make her, but here I am, thinking of how I can budget for a tutor and other kinds of lessons.
I am putting her in danger, and I am not alone.
Statistics on Teens and Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers from 16-19 are 3x more likely to get into an accident than those over 20.
While my girls are obviously not going to be driving with the same level of competence at 18 as they will at 25, I don’t have to aid them in their poor performance. I don’t have to increase their chances of being in an accident by over-stressing the importance of their short games and organic chemistry, both of which are good things, but – most likely – aren’t going to pay their college tuition. If anything, they get through college by going to work, and they’ll be able to get there because they know how to drive.
I’m doing what many parents do – telling my kids to focus on their future – to put first thing’s first – while making them prepare for what is only immediately pressing.
Honestly, this makes me a hypocrite.
Dad the Hypocrite
I’m big on thinking long-term. My oldest even has a Roth IRA!
For this reason, I want my girls to study for their exams so they have more opportunities later on. My wife and I put them to bed for a good night’s rest so they can be focused the next day. I have them play sports, join clubs and volunteer.
But this is all short-term, and it’s what they need to do, not me. Studying is on them. Training hard so they can win is on them. Being involved in the community is on them. I gripe at my kids sometimes for being on their devices (the ones I bought them), or wanting to hang out with their friends so much (the ones I introduced them to), but I have never gotten on my oldest about driving because that requires my effort, patience and skill.
My words, my heart, and my soul say that I want the best for her, but my actions stop where it’s inconvenient.
It’s Time to Prioritize
Parents like me haven’t prioritized road time with our soon-to-be drivers because we’re busy. Others are scared to let them get behind the wheel. Whatever the factors are, the answer is the same – our kids are going to drive one day. It’s on us if they’ll be more experienced or less when they get their licenses.
As for my daughter, she’ll be in driver’s ed shortly after returning from her time abroad, and while there will be mandated tennis lessons, math sessions and non-fiction books in her future, the best thing I can do before any of that is make sure she is confident and competent behind the wheel – for her future, as well as the safety of others who will share the road.
I hope you’ll consider doing the same.