On the highway of life, there are so many wonderful adventures with our kids. That is, on the metaphorical highway of life. On the literal highway, especially when our kids start sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle we all are riding in—well, let’s just say the word “adventure” takes on a whole new meaning.
It’s rare to meet a child who isn’t eager to start driving. In addition to the excitement of becoming a driver—being the one in sole control of a three-thousand-pound automobile—our young often dream of soon having their very own car, truck, or even motorcycle. While it’s something we adults uneventfully, almost robotically do on a daily basis, it is not something in which we tend to be ready to watch our offspring participate, especially the first time around.
I imagine there are countless articles on how to keep calm while teaching your kid to drive. Of course, there are driver’s education courses and schools, but the real practice seems to come at the expense of the parental finances. There also can be quite a cost in the gray hair department!
One of our sons learned to drive in Seattle and took a class at an overpriced driving school. The middle boy took a class at a moderately priced driving school in a mid-sized city on the opposite coast from where his older brother earned his license. The youngest took an old-fashioned, public school-sponsored, coach-taught, free-to-the-parent summer offering in a rural Kansas community. Regardless where they cut their driving chops, my wife and I were unequivocally the practice driving guinea pigs. We learned right along with them, maybe not the same concepts, but we learned.
Unfortunately, the celebration at the DMV upon passing that final test was only the beginning: we had a new driver in the family, but we didn’t necessarily have a new car for the new driver to drive. Check that. We absolutely didn’t have a new, or an old car, for the new driver to drive.
What do parents do with this dilemma? Of course, it will vary from family to family, not only due to financial situations, but also to family beliefs and priorities. My wife and I decided that if we were having the boys help with family driving duties, such as dropping a sibling at a sports’ practice, or running to the store for milk, we provided the vehicle. Beyond that, if the child was keeping up at school, with chores, and certainly with wise choices, he could occasionally borrow one of our vehicles for something he wanted to do. Said vehicle would have to be returned on time, clean, and filled with fuel. If that didn’t suffice, the child was free to work to earn money to purchase, provide gas, maintenance, tags, taxes, and insurance for his own.
As with anything in the world of parenting, judgment from others abounds. We had friends who thought we were winning at the parenting game and others who thought we were harsh taskmasters. In the end, now that all boys are grown with families of their own, I thankfully can say they consistently thank us for allowing them to discover the pride of hard work, responsibility, and ownership from a young age. They also feel it made for true “adulting.” This is especially so now they are becoming parents themselves, a transition not seemingly as difficult as many of their peers claim to experience.
Again, every family is different. Every family has varying circumstances. Every family has to find its own rhythm. In your search for the right familial beat, don’t rule out the opportunities to empower your children in discovering how good it can feel to not only be a responsible driver, but to simply be... responsible.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
Last July, my oldest child, my daughter, turned 15. She was so excited to take the driver's permit test. There was a part of me that hoped she would fail over and over, so that I would not have to get in the passenger seat with her. Unfortunately, she passed, and I had to overcome my fear of riding shotgun with my kiddo.
It had only been eleven years since I survived a near fatal car accident in which I was the front seat passenger. The driver veered off the shoulder, over-corrected, and sent us into barrel roll at 60 MPH. Since that day, I prefer to be in the driver’s seat. I break out into cold sweats while sitting in the passenger seat and prefer to avoid it, if at all possible.
Before our first attempt at allowing her behind the wheel, I tried to feed her as much info as possible prior to her even turning the key. I told myself I would treat the situation as if I were face to face with a coyote. I would not show fear! Hopefully this would keep my daughter relaxed and keep me alive.
With all the information I had given her, I did not realize just how little she knew. I mean she did pass tests in order to get a permit. I pulled the vehicle to the side of the road in a neighborhood with little to no traffic. I told her to slowly turn left onto the street. There was a mailbox about 30 yards in front of us For some reason, she thought turning the steering wheel right would turn the vehicle left . . . and, in that moment, had I been face to face with a coyote, I would have died! We managed to avoid the mailbox and get the car on the street, but this would turn out to be the scariest two minute ride back to our home.
Soon after this first attempt at driving, she tore her ACL and meniscus while playing basketball, and I fell and broke my leg shortly after. We both had surgery and our driving days were on hold. Having youth on her side, she healed up much quicker than I. By the end of August, she was begging to drive again.
I was slowly getting around with a walker and wheelchair. After having been bed ridden for 6 weeks, I guess I was feeling the need for some danger and excitement in my life. I agreed to go for a ride with her around the neighborhood. I loaded myself into the death seat, and sat my walker as far away from the vehicle as my arms could reach. My wheelchair was also sitting about 5 feet away. I told her to slowly back out of the driveway and go. Apparently, what she heard, was "Turn the wheel hard left and gun it."
“Boom, crack, crunch”, those were the sounds I heard as she hit my wheelchair, and ran over my walker!
“Dad! Why did you put that stuff so close to the car?” She asked. I explained, if it were a parked car sitting next to us, she would have just side swiped it.
I hesitantly proceeded with the ride along. We slowly crept up a large hill, which was just fine with me. As we reached a plateau, there was an upcoming curve and we began to pick up speed.
I said, “You are gonna need to slow down. Slow down please. Tap the brakes. HIT THE BRAKE!!!”
I closed my eyes and began to pray, as we sped through this sharp corner. “You are making me nervous Dad”, she said, with a hint of displeasure in voice.
“You are gonna give me a heart attack, and a nervous breakdown!" I fearfully explained.
We managed to make it back to the driveway where I could now assess the damage to my chair and walker. The walker was bent and unusable. I immediately made a call to Mercy Driving School and signed her up for driving lessons.
She has had three lessons and driven a few more times with me riding along. She has made a lot of improvement, and is now only a couple of months from turning 16. I am still scared to death that she will soon be allowed to drive the streets on her own. Once she is off and driving, my 14-year-old son will turn 15, six months later. Yikes!
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
“Respect your elders and especially your mother!”
That’s one of the principle behaviors Eric Graley wants his kids to grow up knowing. It’s Sabrina, his wife of 16 years, he says who helps him to be successful as a driver. When he decided to drive over the road more than three years ago, it was a decision both of them weighed in on. Sabrina’s opinion was also considered when he moved to drive for Prime in 2018. “She’s my rock,” he says, and adds, “I wouldn’t be driving without her.
Eric Graley has been driving an 18-wheeler for three and a half years, the past year for Prime. He is also the father to three daughters and a son ranging in age from four to 15. Eric serves as a trainer for new Prime drivers, spending up to six weeks (or 30,000 miles) with a new employee. He enjoys it; the money is good; and he views driving as a way to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. “Driving for Prime, I’m able to provide a good life for my wife and kids,” he states.
Just because he’s gone from home six to eight weeks at a time, does not mean Eric is not thinking about his family. The stuffed animals from the kids that Eric has on his dash in the truck and the daily phone check-ins mean they are often on his mind. “Every morning,” he explains, “I try to video call and check in with each of them—even for just five minutes, to find out what they’re doing and tell them I love them.”
Eric also stresses the importance of including his family by telling them where he’s at and where’s he’s going. (The day we caught up with Eric he was headed south out of Colorado in route to Laredo, Texas with 43,000 lbs. of yogurt.) He told us, “I try to take pictures of things my kids are interested in seeing.” His 12-year-old daughter, for instance, likes to see snow and city lights, so Eric has sent her several photos of snow. The night skies of Houston, Dallas, St. Louis and others have also been included. Noticing and photographing some of her current interests help her know he is thinking of her. He said he had a similar experience with his older daughter who was fascinated with cactus for a time.
Eric says he also likes to bring his kids small gifts when he comes home after a month or two on the road to see his family for a week or two. This might include a dream catcher in honor of their Native American heritage or a new beanie baby. “It’s not the size that matters,” he explains. “It’s that I want them to know I’ve been thinking about them.”
As much as he loves his children, Eric insists he would not be where he is today without the love, support and encouragement of Sabrina. Perhaps this, and his southern heritage, is one of the reasons it’s critical to him that his children learn to “respect their elders,” and especially their mother. When he comes home he does everything he can to make her life easier. Even when he’s on the road, he’s not afraid to be stern with the children if necessary.
“Sometimes,” he says, “I give them a stern talking to. At other times, there might be a group scolding.” If necessary, he’s not afraid to add, “You don’t know when I’m coming home.” And although it’s not easy to discipline children you’ve been missing, Eric says he is not afraid to do what’s necessary to help his children develop into respectful adults who use “Yes, mam” and “No sir.”
“If I need to deal with some misbehavior,” he explains, “I try to do it right away after I get home so we can get it done and over with and enjoy the rest of our time together.”
We wondered if Eric talked to his trainee drivers about more than driving, for instance, about how to stay connected with your family even when you were gone. Eric’s response was swift and certain. “Trust your wife and don’t act on ‘bad dreams,’ i.e. the thought she’s not being faithful to you.”
“I’ve seen marriages ruined simply because a guy acted on a ‘bad dream.’ Keep including her in your life on a daily basis and it will make things much easier.”
From Eric’s perspective, success as a driver means making it a family affair. Respecting, valuing and loving your wife or partner is an important first step. Staying connected with your kids while on the road is the second. Together, they form a powerful bond even when dad is driving over the road.
In February Daniel Skidmore was driving his truck in Illinois in when he got the call his wife, Kerry, was in early labor. Her water had broken and she was headed to the hospital. He quickly got on the phone with his fleet manager at Prime headquarters and was told he could bring his load into Springfield, Missouri and catch a flight out of the airport there. Jackson Daniel Skidmore was five weeks early, but he still waited just long enough for his daddy to arrive.
Daniel recalls, “I made it to the hospital less than two hours before my first born was delivered via emergency C-section. Prime is and will always be a family-first company, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Who knows, in 21 years I might be training him how to drive with us."
Daniel has been driving for Prime since December 2015. He began his career with another company, but says he quickly changed to Prime when learned of the great benefits there. In 2016 he became a CDL instructor, something he has enjoyed doing for the past three years. He sees driver training as both an art form and skill set. “You can teach someone the skills necessary to pass the Missouri Department of Transportation test, but knowing how to drive under different conditions and a variety of settings—that’s an art form that can only be learned in real life situations.” This is what Daniel hopes to teach the new drivers he trains.
A native of central West Virginia, Daniel initially sought employment in manufacturing or warehousing when he moved Florida in 2015. The jobs available did not pay well. At some point, he started thinking about driving and consulted Kerry about the opportunity and possibility. He found both her and his parents to be both encouraging and supportive. “She wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and my driving allows it.”
Even though he’s on the road and Kerry is at home with Jackson, Daniel sees his wife’s ongoing support as vital to his success and happiness as a driver. “Kerry,” he insists, “is my emotional rock” and explains how he found talking with her reassuring while recently driving in wintry conditions.
“Today,” Daniel says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. The view outside my ‘office’ window changes every mile. I like the challenge of driving—the multiple calculations I need to make with fuel, hours of service, and parking to be successful. It makes me think!”
Daniel typically drives four to six weeks before returning home for a break. In order to stay happy and healthy on the road he recommends the following:
1. While on the road, find time for “you,” that is your own space even when you have another driver with you. It’s important to preserve at least some personal space.
2. Plan “daddy days” when you’re home. For Daniel this means taking full responsibility caring for his son. “It gives my wife a break and allows me to bond with my son,” He explains. He acknowledges that Kerry’s help in making a detailed list and schedule goes a long way to helping him be successful in this regard.
3. Help out your wife when you’re home. She carries the burden most of the time when you’re gone.
4. Arrange with your fleet manager to be home for special occasions, e.g., Christmas and birthdays.
Although he can’t be home as often as he likes, Daniel still thinks a great deal about what he wants for his son. He has strong ideas about how he plans to train and influence Jackson. “He needs to know how to properly treat a woman. I want him to treat his partner with love and respect. I want him to know that home is a safe place, even when he’s made mistakes. Kerry and I will try to be firm and fair no matter what has happened.”
With an attitude, aspirations and support like this, it’s easy to see how and why Daniel is a Prime Good Dad.
I can’t imagine a time in my life where “I can’t wait to save money for 6 months so I can spend it all on a three day get-a-way!” would be an exciting statement to make. Just thinking about that makes my stomach turn. But it seems this is the reality we face in today’s economy; counting dollars and cents, hoping we can squeeze in a little bit of fun without experiencing financial ruin. Is there a better way to get away without drastically cutting budgets or giving up things that are considered necessities on a daily basis? I would say there is.
Being a family with 5 kids, my wife and I are ALWAYS looking for ways to beat the economic rat race. It’s been years since we have taken a ”typical” vacation. If I am being honest though, our kids don’t know the difference. It’s not that they wouldn’t absolutely LOVE a trip to a major theme park, or a week long beach excursion. Tangibly speaking, it’s merely unfeasible for our not so little family. Even so, I want to be intentional when instilling intelligent use of resources in the eyes of my children. I want them to understand that managing money doesn't have to be about doing without now so we can spend a bunch of money later; that true wealth can be found in the simplicity of things that cost (almost) nothing.
Something my children meet with eagerness is being woken up early on a Saturday morning to a surprise mini road trip. We typically like to keep these trips under 2 hours one way. Last weekend, we decided to drive to a town we have passed many times, but have yet to explore. During our visit, we discovered a city park sitting on 140 beautiful acres. We drove through the entire place letting the kids scout out their favorite play area. They quickly made friends with the other children around them, and they played to their hearts’ content. After a couple hours of wearing themselves out, we treated them to some frozen slushes. Belly laughs and delight filled the van on the way home. It didn’t cost much, the entire adventure under $50, but they loved it and they always anticipate the opportunity to do it again.
One thing I never want to do is take these trips for granted. They never cease to refocus my priorities. There’s no stress in finding an extra dime to spend. There are no real time restraints or anxiety driven schedules. It’s fun. I get to enjoy the relationships I’m developing with the people who matter most to me. I don’t want the burden of having to impress my kids with impermanent material goods. I refuse to let society put a ticket price on happiness. Whether in want or in need, I want my kids to understand that joy comes from what’s inside our hearts; To know the love of each other’s company. There’s no money in the world that can manufacture that feeling. For that reason alone, it’s enough!
Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at email@example.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).
“OK, honey, you’re going to run into the stairs . . . Stop!”
“Go ahead; straighten yourself out and let’s back out of the driveway. . . . No, turn the wheel to the right. No I mean to the left. Ok you’re going to scrape this side of the car on the gate . . .”
Yeah, my 15-year-old daughter just got her driver’s permit.
I really didn’t think much about it when I handed her the keys at the DMV and told her to drive home. Hey, she’s been watching me drive forever and she had to have learned something from playing Midtown Madness on the computer, right?
Then again maybe that wasn’t such a good thing. She’s been driving now for a couple of weeks and she’s doing just great except for the occasional loss of consciousness when she just kind of forgets that she has an actual destination. As I sit in the passenger seat and try to refrain from barking “GO” whenever the light changes (because that kind of freaks her out) I’m starting to think that driving is my “instrument.”
I live in a household of musicians. Their instruments are musical, mine is vehicular. So I can empathize with my wife who endures piano students who struggle to get the rhythm of a piece down as I try to not be too bothered as my daughter randomly speeds up and slows down and doesn’t brake or accelerate the way I would. I then realize that she has only been driving for a couple of weeks, like a grand total of less than 100 miles. Yeah, she’s going to be fine.
I also start to think that the issue isn’t so much her driving, but my not having control of my vehicle. I’m not all that crazy about not being in control. Especially when I’m not completely comfortable with who is literally behind the wheel. I have two options, either I just not let her drive and drive myself, or I can make the effort to help her get better so that I am comfortable riding with her. Ultimately, I think that’s what being a parent of a teenager is about, helping them get to the point where you are comfortable giving them the control that you previously only trusted to yourself. Giving up control, helping them gain independence ultimately means freedom for us both. That being said, I’m glad she won’t be able to drive without me until September.
Both of Darren Sombke's daughters are driving now. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org