The New Parkers


The New Parkers

“I almost got killed in the school parking lot today” are words no mother wants to hear from her child.

But, that’s exactly what my daughter said to me the other day. I took a deep breath and didn’t react – a tactic my parenting book says will keep me calm and encourage my kids to share. (If I freak out, the story ends there.)

She continued, describing the scene where she was innocently and carefully backing out of her “senior” spot in the school parking lot when another car appeared from nowhere and they barely missed hitting each other.

Turns out, this other student was driving diagonals in the parking lot. “Diagonals” is a new term I just made up for when someone shortcuts through empty spaces to save themselves driving around an aisle or two. 

This is one of my pet peeves, unless I’m the person doing it. 

Happily, it wasn’t the violence and mayhem I feared when she introduced the subject. My kids speak in hyperbole, and I have no idea where they could have possibly learned such an unbelievably disconcerting way of expressing themselves.

She didn’t almost die, I am thankful. But she did receive an important lesson in parking lot defensive driving: never assume other people are following the rules. Other people will drive diagonally, forget to yield, ignore their rearview mirrors, neglect to signal, and fail to stop.

My daughter got her driver’s license last year. It’s been long enough now that she can take her friends places, give her sister rides, and drive after dark without a licensed adult driver in the car. She is not as excited about it as I am. It’s much easier to let mom and dad drive you everywhere.

Her hesitancy isn’t something I can relate to. As far as I saw it, I, my siblings and my friends were all more than eager to wield our driver’s licenses. The sooner we could get away from our parents, the better. The minute we could legally drive alone, we were in the car and down the street.

I apply patience, another suggestion from my parenting book, because my family doesn’t live in the small town where I grew up. The widest street I encountered was four lanes and it was the only four-lane street in town. My daughter has to pull out into five lanes to leave our neighborhood, and cross an eight-lane street to get to school. Her group of friends loves this fried chicken place, and it’s on a nine-lane street complete with solid dividers and various no U-turn signals in all the trickiest places. 

There is nowhere to go but forward. We’re not paying $200-plus a month in insurance fees to chauffeur her around. As we negotiate her transition from passenger to driver, we have found that questions about parking far outnumber questions about the rules of the road.

Also, one day she complained about how hot it was in the car. We figured out she didn’t know the heater was on. The dashboard controls, are apparently, another mystery.

She avoided the school parking lot for a week into the school year. She got tired of looking for a spot in the surrounding neighborhood and took a chance. Besides almost dying the other day, it’s been fine.

She’s realized that being the driver can be a burden. She’s responsible for getting her 14-year-old sister to school. This is a sweet, lovable sister who’s known to ignore her alarm clock, forget her shoes, and eat her breakfast in the car.

However, my 17-year old’s main driving-related concern these days, besides getting to know the streets so she doesn’t get lost on the way to the mall, is parking. Parking lots are big, they’re packed, and every single one of them is different. Maybe driving lessons need to include a little more parking. 

Not too long ago, my daughter’s friend, another new driver, pulled up to the curb next to our house. I use the phrase “pulled up” very loosely. What she did was more like drive toward to the curb at medium speed and at a sharp angle, jump the curb, drive on the parkway for a few yards, and then apply the break and drive off the curb.

It was entertaining, scary and shocking all the same time. She and my daughter had the same driving instructor – a fantastic guy named Sabino, who must not have said anything about parking during their lessons. I know I need to fill in the gaps of her parking education. I’ll consult my parenting book on the best way to take on that task.

Article contributed by:
Melissa Bean Sterzick
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