Learning to Drive

As our daughter’s 15th birthday approaches, so does the excitement about the driver’s learner permit. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time.

It’s a lot more difficult to get a driver’s license now than it was when I was a teenager. Our daughter doesn’t even have her permit yet, and we’ve already had to jump through some hoops.

In North Carolina, there are lots of moving parts to getting a learner’s permit. If no one tells you the different steps, it can be rather confusing. I’ve had to ask multiple people a million questions throughout the process, so hopefully, this will help some of you. This has been our process:

  • Register for Driver’s Education at age 14 1/2, if it isn’t offered in your school. (see bottom of page for contact info for three companies)
  • Send in payment for course.
  • Attend course and pass written driver’s ed test.
  • Go to the DMV for the eye test (if the company doesn’t offer it)
  • Schedule the driving portion of Driver’s Ed.
  • Complete the practice driving (six hours) with instructor.
  • Obtain proof of enrollment form from school.
  • Go to DMV on or after 15th birthday for written test and permit…take birth certificate, form from school, completed Driver’s Ed form, and Social Security card.

If I didn’t have friends who reminded me of things to do throughout the process, my poor daughter probably wouldn’t be on her way to getting her permit in a couple of weeks.

She completed the classroom/written test portion of Driver’s Ed the first week of June, getting it out of the way. She had to be 14 1/2 to enroll in the course. We then had to wait till about a month before her birthday to schedule the driving portion of the course. She had the first of two three-hour sessions this past Saturday, and she said everything went smoothly.

Anyone who has ridden with a new driver knows it can be nerve-wracking, but the only way to learn is through practice.

When the instructor arrived at our house, she told me that she usually stays in the neighborhood for the first two hours, and she never takes anyone on the highway in their first session. I wasn’t worried. I knew our daughter was in good hands, so I was very relaxed while they were gone. Plus, my daughter has practiced driving me around on private roads for months.I knew she would do well driving the instructor in the neighborhood.

When my daughter got home three hours later, she said she thought she had done very well, and she did go on the highway. She said that after they drove around the neighborhood a couple of times, the instructor said she was ready to get out on the open road. First, they practiced some parking skills at a nearby parking lot, and then they got in the interstate! Yikes! I love interstate driving, but some people hate it. I asked my daughter what she thought of it, and she said she liked it. Near the end of the lesson, they drove to pick up the next student driver and came home. She has her next session this weekend.

I’m excited for her, and nervous for us. I remember when I was learning to drive. It was exciting thinking about the freedom that was coming my way! I’m sure she feels the same way, but first, we have to make sure she knows what she’s doing. We have a year to help her practice to get her prepared.

It was a lot easier when I as a teenager. We took Driver’s Ed at school, and then when we turned 15, we could test for our learner’s permit. That was it. I don’t even think we had to show any proof that we had taken Driver’s Ed. But Driver’s Ed at school was fun. We had driving simulators. They were nothing like real driving, but they were fun!

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I remember some of the driving mistakes I made early on when I was learning to drive. My poor Daddy. Our house was at the top of a hill, so if you backed out of our driveway in one direction, you were backing a little downhill on the road. One day, with my daddy in the car, I forgot to put the car into Drive after backing out, and I stepped on the gas pedal, sending us speeding down the hill backward! Somehow, Daddy stayed calm, and I got things under control. He probably never wanted to drive with me again, but he did. Another time, I stepped on the gas instead of the brake as we turned into a street. And somehow, we survived it.

I’m sure when Daddy was teaching my brother to drive, it was much less stressful for him. My parents had caught my brother driving a friend’s car when he was just 14, so there’s no telling how much driving experience he really had when he got his permit. It wasn’t funny at the time, but Daddy laughed about it years later.

Later, after I had my license, he taught me to drive a manual transmission on a Jeep we had…another adventure, but not one my daughter is likely to have, since so few manual transmission cars are made now.

So our adventure in driving is about to begin. It’s difficult to believe. I remember when our daughter first started walking, and we said she didn’t have walking around sense. Will we feel the same way about her driving?

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DRIVING SCHOOLS IN CHARLOTTE (I’m only listing companies my friends have used):

Helms Driving School…Website:   http://www.helmsdrivingschool.com/Services.html

Jordan Driving School…Website:   http://www.jordandrivingschoolcharlotte.com

Faulkner Driving School…Website:   http://faulknersdrivingschool.com/about-us.aspx

 

 

 

 

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Shopping For Homecoming Dresses

***I wrote this blog in early September, but I know some of you have Homecoming in the next month, so I wanted to share again.***

School has started, and for many students, that means Homecoming is coming up.

My daughter is in ninth grade, so it’s the first year she can go to the Homecoming Dance. This year, at her school, the dance is early, September 22, so the rush is on to find the dress. Shopping is fun. Shopping with a teenage girl is not. It’s torture. We rarely agree on a dress. I don’t want her to get something too short, too low-cut, too cheap, too cheap looking, or too…anything else. The struggle is real.

Homecoming has morphed over the years. When I was growing up, if a boy asked someone to Homecoming, he might call on the landline, or he might approach a girl at her locker saying, “Hey…would you go to Homecoming with me?” No one else heard it or saw it. Now, it’s quite a show. Signs are made. Baked goods are purchased. And when the young man invites the girl (or vice versa or whatever), he presents his sign, baked goods, or candy. It’s quite a display. My daughter would kill me if I used the picture of her cute Homecoming proposal (and it was cute!) in my blog, so here’s one example:

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Another thing that’s different? Back in the day, we wore gigantic Homecoming Mums…Chrysanthemums. Our school colors were black and gold, so we wore gigantic yellow chrysanthemum corsages with black and yellow ribbons, and black pipe cleaner lettering on top of the mums. They were big and weighty. They were pretty, no doubt, but times have changed.

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This photo illustrates the size of the Chrysanthemum corsages we wore in the 80s…almost as big as a human head.

We also had our dance immediately after the game. Now, our school’s Homecoming Dance is not right after the game. The game is Friday, and the dance is Saturday night, so the kids often go to dinner and take photos with dates or friends before going to the dance.

With the dance three weeks away, she needs a new dress. Please pray for me. I am bracing for what lies ahead. And it’s not just the dress…it’s the shoes too. It’s difficult to communicate to a 14-yr-old that “just because you can walk really well in six inch heels doesn’t mean you should wear them.” This year, I’m going to use athletics against her. She is playing on the school field hockey team, so I will say, “If you wear tall heels to the dance and twist your ankle, you won’t be able to play field hockey.” That should do it. We find our currency where we can.

Because I am beginning the dress search, I have found some places, in different price ranges, to look. Most have something on the lower end of the price scale, because who wants to spend a fortune on something their daughter will likely wear once? I love a good deal. I’m listing them in random order:

BOEM One place my daughter and her friends love to shop is Boem, a boutique located in Morrison Place, at the corner of Sharon Road and Colony Road. They also have a website from which you can order. Dress prices range from $15 to just over $200. If you’re unable to go into the store, you can shop online with them here.

LULU’S Last year, someone told me about lulus.com. Hoping to find a Homecoming dress for your daughter without breaking the bank? This could be the answer. Dresses start at $12. To go to lulus.com, click here.

KK BLOOM Another boutique in Charlotte that’s popular with teens is KK Bloom, located at 2823 Selwyn Avenue. They also have a website, which can be accessed by clicking here. Prices range from $20 to about $200.

REVOLVE I’ve shopped Revolve.com for years. Remarkably, it’s one of those sites where I can find stuff for me and my daughter. In fact, I bought the dress she wore to Homecoming from Revolve. They have a great free return policy, and they have a great selection. See the website here.

SHOPBOP This website has it all. Prices start about about $50 and go up from there. I could spend hours perusing the site, and my daughter could too. They also offer free shipping and free returns. You can see the website here.

NORDSTROM Nordstrom is a go-to for teens in Charlotte. They have lots of inexpensive offerings in store and online. In Charlotte, the store is located in SouthPark Mall, but you can shop online here.

IVY AND LEO Another locally-owned boutique that’s popular with teens is Ivy and Leo. There are multiple locations in Charlotte and all over the Carolinas. Most dresses are priced around $50, and they’re having a Labor Day Sale! See their website here.

Hopefully, your Homecoming shopping experience will be pleasant. My pulse rate goes up just thinking about it. If we find something at the last minute that needs alterations, it will be too late to get it done professionally. I’ve been known to alter it myself…and pray it holds up throughout the time she’s wearing it!

Happy HoCo!

Trying To Get Out The Door

My 14-year-old daughter is preparing to go to lacrosse team camp for the weekend. She is excited about it and has been looking forward to it for a couple weeks. But she still can’t get packed.

I know I’m not alone. I can’t possibly be the only parent who has a fantastic teenage daughter who just can’t do things (like getting packed for camp) in advance. My daughter has some friends who are planners. One of them went to a soccer camp with my daughter at The University of Alabama a few years ago, and honestly, she is more organized than most adults.

So here I sit in the living room of our home, waiting for her to pack for a weekend camp. It’s only two nights, thankfully, but I’m not packing any of it for her. She has to do it. We have to leave in a few hours, and she wants to go to the pool before we leave, so I’m hoping she is motivated to get this task done. We made a stop yesterday to get some things she needed from Lacrosse Unlimited in the Arboretum. If you have a child who plays lacrosse and have never been to this store, you need to know about it. They have saved me more than once since she started playing lacrosse. For info, click here.

In less than three weeks, she will be going to Iceland for a two-week trip with a teenage tour group. I’m so excited for her. I also look at all the gear and wonder how she will fit it all into the 60-liter bag she has to carry it in. I have a feeling I will be helping her pack for that one. The gear, right now, is in three shopping bags. I took her to Jesse Brown’s Outdoors earlier in the week and tried to purchase absolutely everything on the list in one trip. Thankfully, the employees there were very knowledgeable and very helpful. If you live in Charlotte and have a teenager who will need gear for a summer trip, I highly recommend visiting Jesse Brown’s Outdoors in Sharon Corners. For info, see their website here.

If you’re like me, it’s very difficult to sit and wait for your teenager to get things done. Truly, I had to stop getting up with her before school, because her tardiness stressed me out so badly that I then, in turn, stressed her out. It was not a good way for either of us to start the day. Now, my husband wakes her up. She gets dressed at her own pace, and he drives her to school. Before she leaves, she comes in and gives me a quick kiss before walking out the door. When my husband gets home, he brings me a cup of coffee, and everybody is happy. More often than not, when I’m volunteering at school, I see my daughter at lunch, and I always bring her home. Don’t judge me for not getting up in the mornings…trust me, it’s better this way.

As for getting to other events, as long as she isn’t going to inconvenience someone else, I now let her do things at her own pace, and I try to just stay away from her during the process. For a kid who can run a lot in a lacrosse or field hockey game, she sure takes her time getting ready to go places.

I’m the type of person who must get to the airport about two hours before my flight. I don’t do it because the airline suggests it. I do it, because it makes my life easier. I like to get there, clear security, and relax in the airport lounge or gate area. There is nothing worse, to me, than being in a hurry at the airport.

Years ago, I traveled with a friend who couldn’t be on time for anything. Arriving at the airport twenty minutes before takeoff was ideal for my friend, but not for me. It was always a bad way to start a trip. We started taking separate cars to the airport if we were traveling together. That way, I could get there early enough for my comfort.

My husband goes along with me on it, because he knows it is a big stressor for me. Why create stress when there doesn’t have to be any?

For most of our daughter’s sporting events, we take separate cars, though, because he doesn’t feel the need to be there as early as I do. It’s just who I am.

But now I will confess something. I wasn’t always this way. When I was a teenager and in college, I was known for being the last one ready. (Here is where I should apologize to my friends and family.) It drove my parents crazy, because they believed that if you weren’t early, you were late. Fortunately, as I got older, I realized I was causing myself added stress that wasn’t necessary, and I started padding my schedule with extra time to get places. Life got easier.

Therefore, I guess there is hope for my daughter. At some point in her life, she will realize life is easier if she plans appropriately. And I don’t mean plan out every minute. Just plan to be ready on time. Likely she will learn a lot about it on the Iceland trip, when she has to be ready to move to the next destination with the group. Let’s just hope she brings that lesson home with her.

Mama Bear

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, but I am a mother. This post is written after being given the word “bear” as a prompt…I ran with it.

Everybody knows you don’t mess with a mama bear in the animal kingdom. Generally speaking, you don’t mess with a Mama Bear in the human world, either.

Mama Bears can be mamas, or they might be teachers fighting for their students, coaches fighting for their players, or any adult fighting for a child.

Let me start by saying I am a person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I expect good things from people. I think most people are good. I think most people try. I want good things for other people. I also want good things for my child and other people’s children. Most of the time, I think everyone around me is doing everything they can for everybody.

And then there are the times I feel like I’ve been gut-punched.

If you’re a mama, you’ve experienced it…that feeling you get when you feel the need to protect your child, or even your teen, from something. You feel the need to intercede. It’s an instinct that becomes part of who you are when you become a mother.

It might be you feel the need to keep them from going to a party. Maybe you feel the need to talk to a teacher. Maybe parents need to come together sometimes. MOST of the time, I try to encourage my child to work things out on her own. But Mama Bear is always in there…sometimes she’s hibernating, but she’s there.

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It’s an instinct that’s difficult to ignore. I know, because sometimes, I become Mama Bear.

Generally speaking, I don’t act on the Mama Bear instinct (and sometimes it’s painful to hold it in), unless I see what I perceive to be a real problem. Lots of times, I’ve had to vent to friends. Sometimes I ask for feedback about my instinct, but usually, I just want to vent.

My friends know the difference. They know when I want feedback and when I want to vent. And some of them know when I need feedback, whether I want it or not.

I’m not a big complainer, and I’m a reasonable person. Usually, if I run across a situation that I think needs to be mentioned, I sit on it for a while. I try to shelve it for a few days…a cooling off period, if you will. Often, I realize the “situation” was no big deal.

I have one child, a 14-yr-old daughter. What I have learned in her 14 years of life is something my mother always told me: Something might be a big deal to her, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. 

Remember when your child was a toddler? There were things that bothered him/her that seemed completely trivial to an adult. For my child, one of those things was collared shirts. She hated them. When I put a collared shirt on her and realized how it bothered her, I couldn’t get it off her fast enough…because it became painful listening to her! Whew! What was a big deal to her initially seemed small to me, but after much ado, it became very clear to me that it was a big deal all around!

All these teenage “big deals” should be taken into consideration too.

And sometimes, I have to help her put things into perspective. Easier said than done, but I try. If she continues to act like it’s a big deal, then I try really hard to see things from her point of view.

One thing I do know is that middle school girls are not like everybody else. I remember being 14, and I remember an emotional rollercoaster…daily. I also remember that I didn’t feel like I had the power to take problems to higher-ups, i.e. adults. So I kept my mouth shut.

My own daughter tends to do the same thing, like lots of girls her age. She gets upset about something, but she doesn’t say anything to anyone…except me. I try to teach her that she needs to learn to handle these “situations” on her own, but sometimes, it’s just impossible. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t be heard. Maybe she’s afraid of repercussions.

Let me clarify that I have never complained about a teacher. In fact, I am usually the first one writing a complimentary letter for just about anyone…teachers, flight attendants, customer service personnel, waitstaff, salespeople, hotel employees. Truly, I know people work hard for a living, and I like to help people. My friends actually LAUGH at how much time I spend writing complimentary letters, but I appreciate a job well done. I can’t remember the last time I flew somewhere and didn’t write a complimentary letter for at least one airline employee. Same with hotel employees. I find something good in them. That’s my long way of saying I’m a positive person.

Here is something else I know: sometimes we have to intercede on our children’s behalf, because truly, they feel like they are being disrespectful if they question authority. It’s an interesting thing we teach our children in this country: We start with “respect your elders,” and then we change our tune to “handle it yourself.” That’s a pretty confusing message to lots of preteens and teens…including mine.

We even teach girls not to call each other out! How many times do we talk about how polite they have to be, and how many times have we said, “Be nice.” Ugh. Yes, please be polite and nice, but don’t be a doormat.

They have this fear that they will appear too sensitive. They have a fear of getting in trouble for being “mean” when they defend themselves. My child has actually said to me, when someone has been rude, that it would be “mean” if she defended herself. WHAT?!? But sometimes, people will be rude as long as you let it go on. I’ve spent countless hours trying to teach my daughter to stand up for herself and others.

Growing up is hard. It’s hard for the child/teen, and it’s hard for the parents. It’s hard to see our teens lose confidence because of something an adult does. It’s hard to see our teens feeling sad.

Most kids learn to handle it, including mine. Most of the time when this Mama Bear flares up,  no one ever knows it.

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Usually, my flare-ups are about adults who act without considering the psyche of a 14-yr-old girl. Do people actually have that much difficulty remembering what it felt like to be that age? At 14, they are still part little girl and just taking one baby step into adulthood. They don’t know if they are little girls or big girls. They need guidance, and they need conversation, and they need someone to hear them.

Will a middle school girl speak up if she feels slighted? Maybe. Is it possible she will shut down if she feels slighted? Maybe.

And sometimes they internalize it…thus, the emotional rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, they often are afraid to speak up. That’s when Mama Bear has to step in. This Mama Bear always feels great pain about this. Generally speaking, I give people the benefit of the doubt, but problems arise when someone dealing with teens doesn’t take into consideration that they are still kids at heart. If someone doesn’t understand teens, they shouldn’t be in a position to deal with teens.

Their reality is different than the reality of adults. They can’t drive. They are trapped at school all day. They have to follow more rules. They’re distracted by social stuff. They’re distracted by almost anything. They’ve been told to be “nice” their whole lives, and dang it, most of them are.

I don’t profess to be a mental health professional, but I am a Mama Bear. I choose to be a Mama Bear who TRIES really hard to keep it to herself.

I give a mean “stink-eye,” though.

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Cheers to all the Mama Bears of the world!

Kelly