It is one of those moments of gentle parental hypocrisy.
Not one of the gobsmackingly obvious ones. Like thinking the time when you’re pouring a glass of wine at the end of a day is a teachable moment for your teenager on the dangers of overindulging in alcohol.
But one of those times when, having arranged your face in a vague approximation of a centered, calm and benevolent presence, you pass on tender advice while all the time your inner chat is screaming.
Like “you might want to steer to the right a bit” when what you actually mean is “WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING? YOU’RE GOING TO CRASH INTO THOSE VERY EXPENSIVE PARKED CARS”.
I am teaching my teenage daughter to drive.
It is a thing in which I had very little choice. My teenager, having reached the appointed age, became armed with a learner’s licence and having assessed the various merits of her parents stress-wise, she declared that she would like me to be the one to help her learn to drive.
Despite my suggestions that maybe some professional help may suit her better at this initial stage of the project, she insisted that she wanted a parent – being me – to be the one to impart the mysterious knowledge.
And so I am here. A gentle parental hypocrite. Trapped between outward benevolence and the inner torment.
Having the two conversations at once.
Want more? Try: Women without children are neither selfish nor bitter.
The what I say out loud – “the important thing is not to panic” – and the what I say to myself – “BRAKE BRAKE STOP OH MY GOD”
And “it might be good to brake now/BECAUSE WE’RE GOING TO HIT THAT TREE” and “It’s ok, the concrete kerb stopped us hitting the tree/I THINK YOU’VE BROKEN THE CAR IT’S GOING TO BE EXPENSIVE I’M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN”
And finding out that the car has gone from being a symbol of independence and self sufficiency to being a metal death tube on wheels.
Of course it’s not my car. I’m not that stupid. The teenager is learning to drive in her father’s car because, as I keep pointing out, it’s important to learn how to drive a manual car right from the start than having to step up later if you learn in (your mother’s) automatic.
While learning the differences between her parents cars, the teenager is also learning that perhaps her parents aren’t as different as she first believed.
This idea coalesced in her mind after the time when, mistaking confidence for competence during a lesson on parking the car at the local shops, I bought some coffees and hot chocolates to take home and jokingly suggested that she should be able to get the car home without me spilling the coffees.
Five minutes later with coffee and hot chocolate dripping down my jeans and having let my inner voice become my outer voice (YOU’RE GOING TO FAST TO TAKE THE CORNER I’M GRABBING THE STEERING WHEEL TO STOP US HITTING THAT TRUCK), she realised that she may have erred in assuming her mother was going to respond in a less anxious manner to the whole driving lesson thing than her father.
After we stepped foot back inside the house she suggested gently that maybe her father should take her for the next lesson.
I’m not ashamed to say that I approach each driving lesson with something ranging between nervousness and terror. Usually edging more to the terror side of the scale. Actually, usually right on the terror side.