Another Life Milestone for Athena

My daughter now has her learning permit to drive, and I have co-signed to be the parent responsible for her learning how to drive (she will also need to take official driving classes). I am proud, and hope my car survives.

(P.S.: Athena wishes you to know that she was squinting into the sun when this picture was taken. That is all.)

69 Comments on “Another Life Milestone for Athena”

  1. The sideways driver’s licence for people under the legal drinking age has always struck me as a smart thing – we don’t do that here for some reason. Though I admit it does look a little odd to me.

    Congrats to Athena, BTW! I just hope she doesn’t do what I did the first time I was behind the wheel. Turns out the accelerator pedal needs a lighter touch than I first thought… good thing I insisted on trying it in neutral before I started tooling around. Yikes. Scared the heck out of a bunch of people with the engine noise…

  2. We had a pink sheet of paper that had our names and our parents names. We didn’t get no fancy license for our learner’s permit. :)

    Congrats, Athena.

  3. Does this mean that hair that you have left will be going grey soon?
    Or that you have done such a wonderful job as a parent that we will only be hearing glowing reports about parallel parking and defensive driving?

  4. Ok… staying off the roads of Ohio for a little while, just in case. Being in Washington ought help make that easy. :)

  5. When I was 13-15, my dad would sometimes take me to the Industrial Park in South San Francisco on a Sunday and let me drive our 1966 Beetle around. That was back in the mid-70s when it was actually industrial and there was nothing going on there on Sundays. We’d rarely see another car. Other times, he’d let me shift (with my left hand) while he was driving. By the time I got my learner’s permit I was already a driver.

  6. 1. Take small plastic wine glass (open top, not flute)
    2. Fill with water to about 1/4″ below top
    3. Put on level space on dashboard or console
    4. Tell learning driver “don’t spill any”

    A great learning tool to work on smooth application of all driver input – she will have to learn to drive well out in front of the car in order to be able to minimize acceleration, braking, and changes of direction.

  7. When I took Driver’s Ed and it was my turn to get behind the wheel, you should have heard how quickly my classmates clicked those seatbelts. Man. Drive up on the sidewalk one time . . . . (bright sun blinded me, there was no curb, car and passengers unharmed.) I’m a very good safe driver now. :-) Have fun, Athena! (Best wishes and deep breaths, John.)

  8. She’s got a wonderful car to drive, but in case you think she needs something a little easier to park…..

  9. When my kids started learning to drive, I bought them an old junker – just one per. If they wrecked it, there would not be another car. They all drive very carefully.

  10. Well, I’ve done it twice as a parent. My youngest son just got his license in June and I’ve survived. It’s not the hardest parenting thing I’ve had to do. I gave both sons a mini-lecture on that fact that when you’re behind the wheel we’re basically allowing you to be in charge of a lethal weapon and you should keep that in mind because you don’t want to kill anybody or yourself. Some of that mini-lecture comes from the subdivision we live in has no sidewalks and a lot of kids who play in the street with little regard for those big metal things on wheels, and some of it’s just good advice.

  11. Story: In one of my very early driver’s permit outings a rabbit hopped into the road right in front of me. I hit the breaks so hard, how the person behind was able to keep from hitting me I have no idea. I went from 50 mph to 5 mph in an instant. I was very lucky. One lesson of many.

    Pro tip: Almost all accidents are the result of both drivers missing the signs of an accident about to happen. Regardless of fault, if one driver sees the threat, the accident is likely to be avoided. Be aware of everything.

    The real learning starts after you are out on your own.

  12. Well, you have lost her now! And your car too! You’ll see them both again when they need money for gas :)

    What a great time of life, the whole world is going to open up in new ways. Enjoy it both of you.

  13. Are you still driving the Mini that you posted about here a few years back? That should be fun to learn with…

  14. My son was driving on your fine Ohio roads earlier today. I was terrified. A pic of my terror is
    on my tw.feed, if you dare.

  15. “Athena wishes you to know that she was squinting into the sun when this picture was taken…”

    And here I thought that was a “looking pleased with herself” expression! Congratulations to you, Athena, and John? Good luck, man…

  16. When my brother taught me to drive a stick shift, he found it highly amusing to wear a football helmet to the lesson.

    Not that you’d ever do anything like that.

    Buckeyes beware–Athena AND John are on the road!

  17. I went through the “permit” stage on schedule with mine, but put off the “driving” in two out of three cases for at least six years.

    The trick: I made them an offer. If they chose to put off getting a driver’s license until they had a bachelor’s degree, I’d buy them a new car on graduation. Brand shiny new.

    So among the other treasured items on my trophy wall, there are pictures of two of my kids in cap and gown, leaning on gleaming vehicles, and the caption:

    * Bursar’s bill: $*******
    * Subaru Forester [1] : $*****
    * This picture: priceless

    I think I even saved money, when you look at the cost of insurance for young sorta-adult drivers. I know I saved a huge amount of anxiety over six years, and the now-seriously-adult offspring assure me that they avoided a lot of auto-related timesinks while in school.

    Will this work for everyone? Never dream it. But I’d do it again in a flash.

    PS: $DAUGHTER just bought her first house today, having never made a car payment.
    PPS: the third just took his MSEE while working full time as an engineering manager. Hasn’t done all that badly either.

    [1] Example only

  18. Not to buck the trend, but from everything I’ve read about Athena, I expect her to take to driving like nobody’s business. She seems just as competent and confident as her mother.

  19. My folks were happy to get their kids driving as soon as possible. (In New York City at the time: 16 for permit, 17 for license.) Here’s why:

    “We need some milk. Here’s $5, run to the store.” <–my father said this after I had ONE driver's ed lesson. I pointed out that I didn't actually have a license. He said that was okay. Please note he was a lawyer.

    Mom no longer had to play taxi service all the time. (Not that she had to very often anyway, since this was NYC, with excellent public transit, but it saved her picking me up from odd places on Long Island, or super late at night when the buses only ran once an hour.)

    Mom insisted I have the car whenever I went on dates or to parties. This meant I was never, ever dependent on someone else to get home. She knew *I* was responsible enough not to drink and drive at least (even if I was, and still am, a leadfoot).

    Congratulations to Athena, and congratulations to you and your wife, who will soon be able to hand her the keys and have an undisturbed evening to yourselves!

  20. Wow, John, you must be OLD. Have you started looking at cemetery plots yet?

    And speaking of old, I’m so old that my learner’s permit and first (at least) license didn’t have any pictures at all, sideways or no. I’m also so old that I was turning 18/19/21 right around the time that all the states were increasing their drinking ages. What with going off to college in a different state and then dropping out and starting work in yet another state, I managed to become responsible enough to buy alcohol on three separate occasions. It made me just a tad cynical about the concept of a drinking age. (Which is of course not the same thing as being cynical about driving drunk. I hope I didn’t really need to add that.)

    Anyhow, to Athena, congratulations, leave yourself more room than you think you need, always check your blind spots, and when jackasses get on your nerves, remember: you can start playing games with them and invite them into your life for a while, or you can let them go and after about 30 seconds you will never have to be aware of their pathetic existence again, ever. I wish someone had pointed that out to me when I was your age.

  21. I probably shouldn’t point out that the sun is a bit behind her left shoulder, with her eyes clearly in shadow. Nope, shouldn’t.

  22. While in motion, stay off the phone, stop.

    For any reason, full stop.

  23. Cindy Lou –

    You’re right on all comments. That last one applies to bunches more than driving.

  24. I have three kids. One became hysterical at the first sign of criticism, so I pawned off her lessons on my very patient brother. “Now,” he’d calmly say, “We’re going to go around the block, and the next time you see that octagonal-shaped sign, I want you to stop.” whereas I’d be screaming STOP!!! She finally earned her license at the age of 22. My second child called me a bitch when I corrected one of his errors, so I gave up on teaching him as well. He earned his license at age 19, because he no longer had to drive with a parent at that age. At last I arrived at my youngest, and it was like Goldlilocks–just right. We bonded over our similar tastes in driving, he *liked* being corrected, and he loved learning stick. Since you only have one, I sincerely hope that teaching her will be more like my third experience. (I also taught 3 stray teenagers along the way because their parents didn’t have time or the desire to drive with them–all three of those were so grateful to have me drive with them that those experiences went fine).

  25. OMG! I have gone through 2 daughters, one son, 2 sisters and a brother learning to drive. I feel for you. When I had my learners permit (many many years ago), I hit my dad’s car while driving my mom’s car with my mom and all my sisters and one of my brother’s in the car and pushed my dad’s car into my dad’s boat in the carport. If my dad hadn’t reacted quickly and yanked my baby brother out of the way, then he would have been squished. It totally wasn’t my fault. I was rolling up my window cause my dad had the sprinkler going in the front yard.

  26. I first found this blog via… good lord, I don’t remember who pointed me in this direction – but it was during the whole demotion-of-Pluto uproar a few years back. The reason I was directed to Whatever? Athena had made a video defending Pluto against the demotion (IIRC, the video ended with dinosaurs eating Neal DeGrasse Tyson).

    She was 8 years old.

    Now she is learning to drive.

    Tempus doesn’t just fugit. Tempus freaking blueshifts.

  27. Congratulations! From what you have disclosed about her, I’m sure you have nothing to worry about. Soon, you will have an extra person in the house who can run to the store!

  28. If it’s not intrusive, may I ask whether she was enthusiastic about the new milestone? When I was a kid, the day you were old enough to drive, you dragged your parents kicking and screaming down to the DMV, but my own teenagers – and their friends – are decidedly ‘meh’ about the whole concept of driving at all. I’m not sure if this is a generational issue or a function of the availability of transit here.

  29. My oldest child is 11 now. I’m dreading the day he is old enough for a learner’s permit.

  30. Athena is a boss, she’s got this :)

    When I was young, so long ago, most of us had illicit driving experience from the age of 13 or so, and at that time we only needed to hold a permit (signifying minimal actual sanctioned training) for a month or until we turned 16, after which we were set loose on the road without restriction. Things are more complicated now, but probably safer.

  31. Congratulations on this milestone. I would not go thru it again for anything. Nerves of steel required and ability to sound calm when you are SCREAMING inside. But nothing compares to the first time they drive alone. May the force be with you.

  32. Congratulations to Athena and Dad! I have found that teaching my kids to drive has been some very high quality parent-child time. I hope you find it to be the same.

  33. No – no no no no – there is no way Athena is old enough to have a drivers permit. Seriously?

    I blinked – I swear I just blinked and it’s like 10 years or something…

  34. mythago said:

    “When I was a kid, the day you were old enough to drive, you dragged your parents kicking and screaming down to the DMV, but my own teenagers – and their friends – are decidedly ‘meh’ about the whole concept of driving at all.”

    I understand that’s becoming more common. The expense is primarily the reason, and/or that they usually have a friend with access to wheels. Location is a determining factor too. Bicycling is a good choice in some cities, public transport in others.

  35. Isn’t she just 14? I am going to sound old… but that strikes me as too young to drive. I know John lives in the back country of Ohio without alot of traffic… that just strikes me as too young.

  36. Our kid also goes to Camp Willson, and loves it. She’s only 12 , but she is counting down the minutes until she can drive. I’m praying the law changes before then.

  37. Congrats to Athena! Always remember that driving is a privilege and a responsibility. It is also a lot of fun!

    “Life’s like a road that you travel on
    When there’s one day here and the next day gone
    Sometimes you bend sometimes you stand
    Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
    There’s a world outside every darkened Door
    Where blues won’t haunt you anymore
    Where the brave are free and lovers soar
    Come ride with me to the distant shore”
    Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

  38. My oldest is accumulating driving hours with her permit (the state requires 60 hours, logged). So far, so good, despite some nervous moments. She has inherited for learning purposes a 2007 Forester, which is perfect – it’s not too high up or too low to the ground, neither too powerful nor too slow, and (unlike many new cars) it’s easy to see out in any direction at a glance. Visibility out of post-2008 Foresters is also said to be good, but newer Foresters are too large and not tossable – and driving should be fun, especially for someone learning to be confident at it.

  39. Anybody want to do an over/under on the amount of hair left on Himself’s already sparse head in 3 years from today? The over would be “some” and the under would be “none.” I speak from experience, having trained one son and three daughters, all of whom drove me to drink. Pun intended.

    And isn’t Athena glad she takes after her mom’s looks? DL pictures can be cruelly vetted by school buds, and hers looks to be just fine.

  40. When I was taking behind-the-wheel in 1981 we were on I-66, coming on to I-495. This was back when the onramp came in on the left side of 495. I pull on to the Beltway, the instructor says “Now pull into the far right lane”. Look over my right shoulder, see no traffic in the other 3 lanes (this WAS over 30 years ago…), crank the wheel over, and cross over all the lanes at a nice sharp angle. Looked over at the instructor who said “Never do that again.”

    A couple years later I taught myself to drive a stick shift. This is a picture of me learning how to replace a clutch…

  41. Oh, Scalzi – are you in for a treat, teaching your daughter to drive! ::evil grin::

    We don’t have kids, but because Tammy and I lived in NYC for over twenty years, we both let our licenses lapse and had to re-take driving lessons. Tammy waited until we’d moved upstate, but I re-learned how to drive in New York City – so now, I think I’m qualified to navigate traffic in any city in the world, save Rome and Hong Kong.

    We both went to driving schools, rather than have a friend teach us – in my case, largely because I didn’t know anybody who’d regularly drove or owned a car! Tammy’s case was she’d rather have a total stranger teach her than her husband, who’d only been driving himself for about five years at that point….

  42. At 21, I married and moved to a house where the only bus ran twice a day, period. My husband taught me to drive. He is a calm, patient man and only shouted once, when I started to go the wrong way down a highway ramp. I learned that first you get out of the danger and then you can pull over to the side, safely off the road, and cry.

  43. Congrats to Athena! My son of 14 years shows a surprising lack of real interest in driving a car. On the other hand, he is starting to notice sports cars worth “a million” dollars on the road. Not sure this is a good thing?

  44. True Story.

    Mom was pretty eager to leave the driving to Grandma’s house to me once I got my learners permit. (Even after I took the turn from the state highway onto the interstate ramp a wee too fast)

    So it was early on in my driving experience when she was looking out the window relaxing and the car (a lot more than 10 car lengths) in front of us lost it’s hub cap.

    Flabbergasted that this was actually a thing that could happen and not remembering any pointers about it from my summer driving course I asked her what I was suppose to do.

    Once she figured out what I was talking about all she could say was, “Well, don’t hit it.”

    It fell down shortly before my car went over it. Crisis averted through gravity and entropy.

  45. Congrats to her for a major milestone.

    Question for you John: In CT, parents have to take a form of driver’s ed when their under 18 child gets a driver’s license. Do you have to do the same thing for your pride and joy as well?

  46. Congrats to Athena. She looks great and I agree with commenters that said bad-Ass in the picture. I’m she will do just fine and enjoy her freedom. I wonder if Ohio laws are as strict about eating/drinking/phone use for kids/new drivers/teen drivers as New Jersey is. All of the things I listed can get you learners permit or actual license revoked for first year driving here.

    I have a housemate in her mid-twenties for the summer who never learned to drive. Decided it was necessary to help in her job hunt. Last week she got her learners permit.I don’t believe her learners permit has a picture on it although her picture is in the database.

    She is split using a drivers pro. My husband and I are providing extra driving hours. The other day I started channeling my mom in the “pre” lessons where I talked about what was going through my head the entire time we drove somewhere – she said it was the most terrify 15 minutes she’d ever been in a car. LOL I’ve promised her some empty parking lot time to get comfortable unfortunately she’ll be switching between 3 cars of different sizes – a small sedan, a luxury size sedan, and my not-as-mini-as-advertised SUV. At least all are automatic. I’ve never taught someone to drive – my moms a great driver but I hated learning from her and I’ve sat through my nephew learning and it drove me batty. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a lot like her – it made me a fantastic driver but it’s really annoying to the person learning.

    Teaching someone to drive or just sitting in the passenger seat while they get extra hours to reach comfort level drawing is hard. Good luck Salzi. :D

  47. Hey, Scalzi, just curious here – I think you’ve said you ask permission to post anything about Athena, but does she read the threads that are mostly about her (and then roll her eyes at the internet weirdos)?

    My eldest daughter was reluctant to drive, but passed the road test on her second try. The next up is champing at the bit, but not eligible to start until January.

  48. That didn’t seem like a squint. it seemed more like a “oh, the things I will do with this card” evil look. I like it.

  49. I’m with Aunti Laura; if Athena isn’t humming Bad to the Bone and imagining many hours of tooling down the byways of Ohio in a responsible manner and at a reasonable speed in that photo, her face is lying.

  50. I can honestly say that the driving lesson stage is one of the most frightening things I have ever dealt with as a parent. And a person. And a creature capable of wetting my pants.

  51. May god have mercy on your soul. Perhaps it was just me, but I believe that my screaming, whimpering, and gripping the dashboard, may have hade a dilitreious effect on my children learning to drive. I behaved better giving birth to them, than when teaching them to drive.

  52. I don’t know if it exists in the States, but if it does, I highly recommend Young Drivers as far as driver’s ed goes.

  53. May I suggest a Street Survival school? It is a 1-day driving education event for new drivers, to experience and learn how to manage real world situations in a safe and controlled environment. The school(s) are hosted and staffed by members of the BMW Car Club of America, SCCA, or Porsche Club of America with a standard curriculum. (Full disclosure – I am a member of the BMW CCA, SCCA, and a TRSS instructor).

  54. Congratulations to Athena. May she avoid the thing which failed both my mother and myself our first drivers’ tests – hill starts in cars with lousy park brakes. In Mum’s case, it was in the hills around Bridgetown, Western Australia, which tend toward the precipitous, in an ancient FJ Holden. In my case, it was an older car (I think it may have been a Corolla or a Gemini) with dual control and a slippy brake which really didn’t like the sixty degree slope in Armadale (also in Western Australia) where the tester told me to do a hill start.

    May you both also avoid the experience of one of my high school friends when learning to drive: on her first lesson, she managed to put her parents’ car into a ditch and take out the entire undercarriage. For some reason we were all a bit leery of driving with her after that (didn’t help she was a leadfoot to boot).

  55. a slippy brake which really didn’t like the sixty degree slope in Armadale (also in Western Australia) where the tester told me to do a hill start.

    On a sixty-degree slope? If that car had tyres that would hold on sixty degrees I’m so impressed I’d never dare criticize the brakes! Not sure I’ve ever had a car that had the torque to pull a slope that steep, either.

  56. Athena,

    Congratulations. Big milestone. Here are my other recommendations:
    – If you get the opportunity (translate: “Either you or your parents want to pay for it.”) I cannot recommend a defensive driving course, such as Bill Scott Raceway (BSR) enough. Two days of learning how to brake, handle skids, and (most importantly) drive so you don’t have to worry about those things. They teach you the mundane from how to position your car seat so that you remain in it while you’re spinning around, to the esoteric of how to tell when your tires are about to lose their grip on the road. You would gain a lot more confidence in your ability to handle the car safely and properly. Most importantly, you’d understand what a car cannot do, which would rule your thinking on proper driving distances, speeds, etc.
    – When you pull up to a vehicle at an intersection, always keep enough distance between you and the car in front of you so that you can see their rear tires touching the pavement (“tires on tarmac”, as we call it). That means you have enough distance to pull out from behind them should the need arise. And why would that arise? you ask. So glad you asked. First reason is that the car in front of you broke down. It happens. Second reason is that, if you ever decide to become a firefighter or police officer, you’ll need that space if you get a call while at the intersection. (I used to be a firefighter/EMT, and I drove the ambulance. This happened a lot.) The third reason is if you decide you want a “life of intrigue and danger”. You’re driving overseas. Bad guys decide to come after you at that intersection. You need to “get off the X”.
    – Don’t use your smartphone while driving. Smartphones in vehicles should only be used if its an emergency. If you’re still driving, it’s not an emergency. NOTE: Answering a text message does not constitute an emergency. If you absolutely MUST use your smartphone, pull over.

    I wish you well, and be safe out there!

  57. “(P.S.: Athena wishes you to know that she was squinting into the sun when this picture was taken. That is all.)”

    That’s what she’s telling you – in reality, she’s squinting into the sun and the 100 MPH wind, as she schools some fool….

  58. Just a suggestion. Make sure you take her out in all kinds of weather. My mom taught me to drive in rain, snowstorms, and even long distances from state to state on trips. It made a huge difference. My husband, on the other hand, was only taught to drive in nice weather. His first rain storm, he was driving by himself and wrecked his car. His first snow storm – ditto.