I Thought I’d Be a Mess Teaching My Teen to Drive – Who Knew It Would Be a Bonding Experience

Spending all those hours in the car with my son brought us closer together

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: I Thought I’d Be a Mess Teaching My Teen to Drive – Who Knew It Would Be a Bonding Experience

Written By: Morgan Hill

I absolutely dreaded teaching my son how to drive. First of all, the thought of him navigating two tons of metal was terrifying. Second, the idea of being in the passenger seat and having zero control of the steering wheel OR the break was equally terrifying. 

He also required 50 hours of behind-the-wheel time from permit to license. That’s a LOT of sweaty palm white-knucklin’ it while screaming “STOOOOP!” and “OMG, BRAAAAAKE!”

Oh, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I really like my car and the thought of having it banged up was disheartening. These fears, (as well as a few others), led to me having full-blown anxiety at the mere thought of getting in the car with him.

I Thought I’d Be a Mess Teaching My Teen to Drive – Who Knew It Would Be a Bonding Experience


I later found that while my fears were valid (it really CAN be stressful teaching your teen to drive), they were actually completely overblown. It turns out, like most milestones and stages in my son’s life, I spent way too much worrying about stuff that never happened. (Ahem… the story of my life!)

In fact, spending all those hours in the car with my boy brought so many revelations that were surprisingly good! And while I still might be gripping the door, at times, the lessons I’ve learned driving with my son far outweigh what I was worried about. 

10 Things I Learned Being in the Car with My New Driver

When We’re Driving, The Floodgates Open 

Trying to engage my son in conversation is much more difficult now that he’s a teenager. Trying to find a time, a place, a topic, and making sure he’s actually in the mood to talk can be a challenge. But in the car, all that fades away. Whether we’re talking about the rules of the road, school, his friends, or what’s on his mind, the car is like a magic portal to conversation. 

I’m Somehow Able to Channel Chill (Surprisingly!)

I thought for sure I’d be an absolute mess in the passenger seat. I envisioned myself screeching for him to slow down, to use the turn signal and brake when we were approaching a stop sign. But magically, I’m able to stay calm. Maybe it’s my surprise confidence in him or maybe it’s because I know hard he’s trying not to mess up. But I’ve surprised myself – I’m actually pretty relaxed!

My Car Isn’t Embarrassing Anymore

When I was looking for a new car, one stood out – an emerald green sedan with a moon roof. My son was absolutely horrified. He begged me not to buy it. “Please, Mom, please! Get a white SUV like all the other moms!” Sure, I’m the only one in my small town with this flashy mom car. But it’s not embarrassing to him anymore. Apparently, now that he has places to go. He happily hops in my green sedan to cruise with me.  

It Turns Out, He Wants My Advice

My “words of wisdom” are usually shirked off. But when we’re in the car he asks for them… he wants them. “Mom, do I go now? Whose turn is it? What do I do?!” And I’m happy to oblige. We’re establishing trust on his terms, and I get a break from begging him to listen.

He’s Not as Eager to Drive as I Thought

When he first got his permit, he was raring to go. He jumped at the chance to get out on the open road. But as time passed, his enthusiasm and excitement faded a bit. Some of it might be nerves. Some of it might be the sheer reality of the responsibility that’s now on his shoulders. But I never thought I’d see the day when my son wouldn’t be dying to get his driver’s license (like I did when I was his age). 

He Can Be Vulnerable With Me

Teenagers are downright famous for their “know-it-all” attitudes. And, my son is no different. But the fact that he really doesn’t know it all in the car means he can let his guard down and ask for help. (I have to admit… I love seeing him drop the attitude for a change!)

I Get to Share a Few Stories 

My son is baffled by how I survived my teen years without a smartphone, video games, and all the apps he conveniently has at his fingertips. When we’re in the car it gives us time to share stories. He tells me about his daily life in school, his friends, and about his part-time job and I get to chime in and share a few of my childhood stories. He’s realizing there’s so much more to me than just being “Mom.” 

Sometimes Driving Nowhere Gets You Somewhere

When my son and I get in the car, sometimes we have a destination in mind, like hitting his favorite fast food place or Target. But most times we’re headed nowhere. “OK!” I’ll say. “Let’s go left down this street, then right onto the highway.”

Like Chuck Berry sang, we have “no particular place to go.” And that’s when we really get talking. 

I Can Sense the Forthcoming of Freedom for Both of Us

He’s excited to drive, breaking free from having to depend on me for a ride. I’m excited to stop shuttling him around after almost two decades. I think both of us are ready for the newfound freedom. But as always, there’s a downside… we lose time together. And, I’m not quite so ready for that.

The One-On-One Time with My Son is the BEST

Every single day, I feel my boy slipping away from me just a little further. It’s not because he doesn’t love me… it’s just that this is his time to feel the gentle breeze of freedom beneath his wings. Meanwhile, I’m over here missing him more with each passing day grabbing every moment with him I can. All this one-on-one time with him in the car is truly a gift. I know these days are fleeting. I know he’ll be driving alone without me soon enough.

So, for now, I’m going to hang onto these days with a vice grip and enjoy this precious time with my boy because I know, someday, I’m going to look back and realize how much I miss this…

About Morgan Hill:

Morgan Hill is an essayist and humorist. She has written for many online and print publications including Insider, Your Teen Magazine, Revel, and MASK Magazine. She is the mother of freshman and senior sons in high school. When not writing, she can be found at flea markets, in her garden, photographing architecture, taking cooking classes, or eating the stinkiest cheese she can find. You can also find her on Twitter @MorganHWrites or Instagram @MorganHillWriter

If you enjoyed reading, “I Thought I’d Be a Mess Teaching My Teen to Drive – Who Knew It Would Be a Bonding Experience” you might want to check out these other posts!

The BEST Conversations Always Seem to Happen in the Car

Life-Saving Driving Tips Every Teen Should Know (Some Might Surprise You)

When Your Teen is in a Car Accident: FREE Car Accident Checklist Printable

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