Day 17 – The Bicycle Helmet – A parent’s adventure from riding to driving

Ruthie The Bicycle Helmet 18 Comments

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untitled (206)Everybody knows you teach a kid to ride by letting go of him on a hill.  A slight hill.

Preferably in the grass.  With you hanging onto the back of the bike.

Because that’s your baby.

It’s so hard letting go.

But you have to let go in order for them to learn.

Scary thing is – it doesn’t stop with bikes.

Eventually, you have to teach them to drive.

Since this is inevitable (and I taught four kids), I offer a bit of driver’s education for parents who are either in the throes, or have yet to participate in this heartstopping joyous occasion.


The Learner’s permit

If you’re lucky, they may fail the permit test.  Maybe even a couple of times.  Or three.

Although it upsets them, this buys you more time.

By the same token, it’s a pain having to revisit the DMV numerous times.

It’s the unhappiest place on earth.

Nobody who works there smiles, and you just want to get out quickly because everyone’s scary.

But you never get out quickly.

Eventually, the kid passes, and you move to the next level:


Teaching them to drive

Now you can panic.

I never saw my dad lose his cool until he taught me how to drive.  A stick shift.  Around an old baseball diamond.

In a circle.

I popped the clutch 71890467 times.

And jerked his head just as many.


1.  Be ready for the graveyard shift

They need to be able to drive slow at first, so there must be as little traffic as possible.

Some suggestions are:

-Your driveway

-The cemetery

-A little country road

-A small neighborhood

I’m not kidding about the cemetery.  We did all of these.


2.  Teach them that curves are a real thing

You people who reside in Iowa may not realize this, but we have mountains here in West Virginia.

And mountains mean curves.

Because you can’t go through a mountain.

My kids bring their flat-lander friends home from college and they don’t know how to act when they come up on a curve.

We’re talking 180 degrees here, people.


How to navigate a curve:

Let off the gas before the curve

Apply brake if needed

Apply gas halfway through the curve

Right your wheel when you come out of it

Move your hands when turning your wheel, they’re not super glued to it.


3.  Be ready to relinquish all your time for a while

May as well face it –


you'll have to spend time riding around in circles to places you don't really need to go. Click To Tweet


It’s necessary before they get into traffic.

We rode over the same mountain four times one day just so my daughter could practice driving to babysitting.


4.  Let them drive places you actually have to go

So it begins, a little at a time.  I was probably more cautious than some, but my heart could only take so much.

School, church, basketball practice.

Eventually they improve.  Some catch on more quickly than others.


5.  Try not to gasp

I’m the world’s worst.

Every time I taught a kid to drive and they neglected to apply the brakes quickly enough, took a curve too fast, or braked too hard, it happened.

Everyone in the car got nervous.

My other kids never wanted to ride with the older sibling learning to drive.

For obvious reasons, but especially “THE GASP”.

Try to keep a lid on it.


The Driver’s Permit

untitled (207)It’s possible that they will not pass this test either.

Especially if you haven’t taught them all the basics – such as the location of the hazard lights.

I’m not saying it happened in our household.

I’m just saying – it may have happened to a friend of mine’s kid.



-Review the basics

Lights, hazards, signals, windshield wipers, hazards, horn, hazards.


-Practice parallel parking

Over and over and over and over and over.  And over.


-Drive the test route



-Make sure they check their mirrors regularly

This is an essential skill.  The driving instructor will be looking for it.


-For the love of Pete – get the birth certificate, proof of residency, and anything else the DMV requires.

Believe me, you will be super annoyed if you take off work early to get your kid out of school and you discover, upon arrival, that she does not have all her information.


Setting them free

This is hard.


You pray the whole time until you receive a text that they've arrived safely at their destination. Click To Tweet


-Let out the rope a little at a time

Don’t just set them free to drive all over creation right off the bat.  They’re not ready, and neither are all the other drivers out there.


-Start with school

It’s the logical place.  Once they master that, slowly let them broaden their horizons.


-They’re not ready for a road trip for a long time

Just don’t.  Why would you even?  Use common sense on this one.


-Be a good judge of character

You’ll be able to tell if your child takes to driving easily or not.  Some possess inherent good sense and judgment.

Some have to learn it.

I had both kinds in my household.


-Monitor phone usage

Set down strict rules for this.  If you find out they’re looking at their phone, you will need to suspend their use of it.

Also – did you know you can track their whereabouts with google maps now?

Take advantage of that sucker.  Where was that when I needed it?!


Be prepared for dumb stuff to happen


“Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.”  ~Erma Bombeck


When your kid comes up the driveway with her rear view mirror knocked off and the whole side of her car scraped, you might want to teach her not to back into the driveway beside the mailboxes.

The mailboxes that are now flattened beside the road.

True story.


-Do the best you can to keep your cool

The cool was not kept by one of the parents.  The other parent felt sorry for the spazzed-out kid.


-Be thankful it’s not worse

Another kid had an encounter with a telephone pole while backing up.  There was also a connection with a cement wall.


-Make the kid pay for the damage

If they’re old enough to drive, they’re old enough to work a small job.  At least make them pay what they can toward the damages.

If the damages are purely cosmetic and the kid never gets enough money for the repair because she’s in college and uses all her money toward that, the dent may stay.

Which is what happened with the telephone pole dent.


-WHEN the kid gets a ticket, THEY MUST PAY FOR SAID TICKET

This is non-negotiable because they have no business getting a ticket in the first place.

But they will.  And some don’t learn after the first one, either.



So you there – taking the training wheels off your helmeted 6-year-old’s bike and walking her up that hill – be thankful it’s only a bike.  You’ve got less than 10 years to enjoy full possession of the car keys.  Enjoy that bike helmet while you can.

And you, gasping mom, sitting in the passenger seat mashing your foot on that imaginary brake – I’m feelin’ your pain.  Hang in there.  Find safe places to teach him to drive, freely give of your (precious little) time, use wisdom when giving road time, and brace yourself for the dumb stuff.

After all, in a few years they’ll be on their own and you can laugh when they complain about the outrageous cost of car insurance.


Day 18: The Rock Climbing Helmet

Comments 18

  1. THIS: “Theyโ€™re not ready for a road trip for a long time!” More people need to realize this and remember this when teaching their kids.

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      Tara, I can’t believe the abuse of this privilege either. It blows my mind that parents don’t give this more thought. It endangers not only their kid, but others.

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      A fellow West Virginian huh?! YAY! What part? I’m not far from the Charleston area. And I’m glad you have fond memories of teaching your’s how to drive…;)

  2. HAHAHA! another GREAT post Ruthie. Our 2nd is almost ready for the permit. He knows I’m a gasper, they all know it and know they’ll have to live with it when they learn to drive.
    My oldest, Luke Duke’d it early in her driving career, up a hill and landed beside a stop sign in the opposite direction, she is VERY careful, but hit the gas instead of the break when something seemed to malfunction on the car (front flat tire maybe?) God shielded my eyes from it after she smartly called and told me she “had a flat tire” About 30 minutes after I arrived, I realized exactly what happened, let’s just say I would have absolutely FREAKED out if I had driven up and realized it immediately. God is SO good to us Mommas

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      Oh dear. We stay on our knees a lot during this stage, don’t we? LOL Luke Duke’d it – knew EXACTLY what that meant (are we dating ourselves?)! So funny! It’s fun to laugh now – at the time it’s pretty traumatic. And YES – God is so good to us! We need to keep reminding ourselves of that very fact!!
      Thanks for reading through this series with me, Christy, I’ve enjoyed having you along so much!
      And thanks for the encouragement to still hook up to fmf – I’ve been hesitant because I spend so much time on each post, just because of the book endeavor and how I want to orchestrate the process. I’ll be over soon!

  3. Great tips Ruthie!!! Love your writing ๐Ÿ˜€ The first time I let our daughter practice she drove the car off the edge of the road & right into a shrub (that did happen to be handing OVER the edge of the road). We laughed and laughed. I’d picked a deserted place with no live bodies around. So… why not laugh!!

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      Absolutely you have to laugh! Ahhh I remember doing some really dumb things myself when learning to drive and my dad and I laughing too. And my kids (usually much later, though)! Loved your bush story and YES – so wise to pick the deserted area. SO. WISE.
      Thanks for coming over! I loved your pictures of the sun coming up this morning!

  4. Erma’s quote – that was one wise and funny lady. Love her stuff. This hat I left for my husband to wear. I could not and still do not enjoy driving with my children, or riding for that matter if they are behind the wheel. I can’t believe all the hats you came up with.

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      Yes she was!!! I’ve always loved her stuff and wanted to pattern myself somewhat after her. I must confess – hubs did most of the teaching of the older two. But I was on my own with the younger two because he was out of town so much. Didn’t care for it one bit.
      And Jim and I brainstormed for all the hats a couple weeks ago and I wrote down ideas for each one so I could just go and pick the hat when I’m ready to write! The whole hat idea was my oldest daughter’s, and I loved it right off the bat. Thanks for sticking with me, friend!

  5. LOL! Try not to gasp! Yep… that’s a good one! When our girlie was learning, we were all three shocked to hear that she wanted ME to take her more than her Dad! I am the one who battles fear, and he is the one who is always laid back… but not when it came to putting her behind a wheel! I think it had a lot to do with the no gasping! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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      Hi Karrilee! I enjoy hearing about your memories with your daughter! It’s funny, the laid back ones are always the ones who spaz out (like my dad and I). Jim taught our older two and then I had no choice when it was time for the younger two – he went MIA with work lol. I did not enjoy. But we lived. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      True life there, girlie. I could tell you so much more. But I don’t want to scare you too much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for connecting again and for your kindness!

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      Thanks, Mimi! I’m covered up what with hats and extended family living with me, but God has been very gracious to lead me through each step! (Although not more than a step!;) Thanks for reading, I’m so glad you’re in my life! YSFAM

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