Words for a New Parker
Parenting is not for the weak. Pregnancy, sleep deprivation, the toddler stage, elementary school PTA, and now, for me, the teen years.
Toddlers are cute, but I like teenagers much better. They don’t need my help in the bathroom, they can empty the dishwasher, and they are frequently fun to talk to.
I have a new parenting experience staring me hard in the face these days: teaching my 15 year old to drive. I’m feeling good about it, and our lessons so far have gone well.
I’m much less nervous than my daughter, but I wish I had one of those passenger-side brake pedals, just in case.
By the end of the year, she should have her license and will be one step closer to independence – a reward, though bittersweet, for both of us.
It’s occurred to me that I also need to teach her how to park a car and look out for herself in parking areas. Internet searches easily gather a list of parking headlines 20 miles long. I am amazed by the quantity and shocked by the headlines.
Read a few screens worth and you might be convinced that parking lots and garages, though predictably organized, are uncharted territory where violence and chaos reign.
But I know that’s just Google, so I’ll try not to worry more than is needed. As difficult as it will be to further loosen the apron strings, I know it has to happen. These are a few of the lessons I’ll be teaching my young driver/parker:
Park in a well-lit area and lock your doors (just stay home at night). Many crimes are crimes of opportunity. Don’t be an easy victim. Bright lights and a secured vehicle make it more difficult for criminals to approach you and access your car.
Don’t leave your purse or valuables in plain sight (keep a crumb-filed old infant carseat in your car to confuse thieves). Speaking from experience, it’s no fun to return to your car and find it’s been relieved of the weight of your backpack, CDs and meter change. I know you don’t listen to CDs, but either way, having your belongings stolen is a kind of assault that leaves you feeling foolish, unsafe and poor.
Get your keys out of your bag before you enter the lot or garage (consider learning karate, taekwondo and jiu jitsu). When you are in a largely uncontrolled and unmonitored public area you need to be as alert as possible. Standing around next to your car digging through your bag looking for keys makes you a sitting duck.
Watch your back (also, carry mace, a whistle, nunchucks and a taser). Look around you. Is anybody just hanging around? Is anybody following too closely or standing near your car? Never talk on your cell phone in a parking lot – you need to be paying attention to your surroundings. While you’re at it, look angry.
Lock your doors as soon as you are in the car (and dress like a nun). An unlocked car is an invitation whether you’re sitting in it or not. Make sure you are in complete control of who gets in your car and who doesn’t – and what I’m trying to say is don’t make it easy for some creep to join you against your will.
Always check your mirrors and back window (check them twice). This keeps everybody safe. It’s really best if you don’t hit a pedestrian or back in to another car as you’re leaving a lot or garage. You’ve also got to make up for the people who ignored their mothers’ advice to never talk on their phones in parking lots and always reverse slowly.
Don’t assume the other driver has seen you whether you’re walking or driving (and wear the orange reflective vest I bought you everywhere you go). Making eye contact is the best approach to ensuring you’ve seen and been seen. If you’re not sure, then yield.
My daughter is one of those people who always tries to follow the rules. I’m proud of how conscientious, caring and intelligent she is growing up to be. It’s tough to send her out into a world that isn’t as kind and decent as she is, but I will do my best to prepare her. I hope she’ll learn on her own that even though it’s a crazy, and imperfect world, it’s also full of beauty and opportunity.