In high school, I took a driver’s education class. When I was eighteen, I took driving lessons from an accredited driving school, having been warned that I should definitely not allow my parents to teach me how to drive if I wanted to maintain a civilized relationship with them. The state of California recognized my proficiency in operating a moving vehicle, and I am a licensed driver for seventeen years now.
But it is my three-year-old son who has taught me the most valuable lessons about driving. And now, I offer to you his driving wisdom:
- Music is important. An upbeat, singable song makes a commute more pleasant and more fun. And although music can’t actually shorten the miles we’re driving, it does make the drive seem shorter. “We’ll be home when two songs are done playing,” versus “We’ll be home in 8 minutes.”
- Always obey the lines of a parking spot. Those lines are boundaries; boundaries that exist to give one car its rightful space. Before becoming a mother, I had experienced the inconvenience resulting in someone parking their car over the line and too close to my door. With a toddler who needs to be strapped into a car seat, I need space. Space to open my passenger door, space to assist my son into his car seat, space to lean over and make sure he’s buckled in securely.
- Look around. There are always things to notice when driving. Whether we’re driving to our neighborhood market or driving thirty miles to visit cousins, my son and I look around. We notice letters on license plates and bumper stickers; red, orange, blue, and green buses; the shape of a cloud in the sky; the number of cars that look like Mommy’s.
- Use the sunroof. When I was shopping for my present car, I knew I wanted a car with a sunroof. Now that I have it, I don’t always use it, instead saving it for really sunny, warm days. My son requests “bright” - his shorthand for, “Please open the sunroof, Mommy,” With “bright” open, we can watch the birds flying above, notice the rays of light falling into the car, and marvel at a streak of white left behind by a jet flying in the sky.
- Be prepared. Driving before becoming a mother was simply an act of getting from one place to another. Driving with a child is a whole other act. We have a four-door sedan and a spacious trunk. I use it. I pack an extra bottle of water, an extra book, an extra toy. Just in case.
- Be safe. Driving is dangerous. There have been instances when I have pulled over to allow a tail-gating car the opportunity to pass us. When I’m alone in the car and someone runs a 4-way stop, it’s frustrating, it’s potentially dangerous. When I’m driving with my son and someone runs a 4-way stop, I become mama lion ready to defend her cub.