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Last week was Jayna’s birthday; she’s now 15. We received the letter in the mail about drivers’ training to help celebrate. She’ll take the classroom part this fall and behind the wheel next summer before reaching that greatest of all milestones to a teenager: a driver’s license.

My fellow parents know this is both exciting and petrifying to moms and dads. It’s exciting because we will not always have to take her brother places, and she’ll be able to get to early morning practices, etc. on her own. She won’t have to get up early when Dad has an early meeting since she can drive herself to school.

On the other hand, it’s frightening to think about my little girl driving an enormous machine down the road and fending off wildlife, weather, and bad drivers while trying to get safely to and from her destinations.

The weather lately has been a tremendous chance to begin conversations about safe driving. Earlier this summer, while driving to Owatonna, we faced a deluge from the skies. I talked through my decision to continue driving, even as some people pulled to the side of the freeway until the skies cleared up. We decided it would be safer to continue moving forward at a much slower pace rather than be standing still on the side in case someone lost control.

Jayna’s helped me spot plenty of deer over the past year. I’ve never seen so many crossing Highway 30 as I have in the last twelve months! Always staying focused on the road is tough to do. We might fiddle with the radio, look at something in the sky, or just daydream. Those deer and other critters aren’t always going to wait until we’re paying attention to cross the road.

After her classroom instruction, she’ll get plenty of chances to work on winter driving. She can drive us back and forth to school most days. The young lady’s already expressed concern at driving if it’s snowing. Certainly, if the weather is treacherous, I’ll do the driving, but I’d rather she learns a bit during some difficult conditions if I’m with instead of on her own after she’s turned 16.

We’ve been trying to plan financially for this for a few years already. Getting her a set of wheels to drive is currently the plan, but that also includes a much higher insurance bill and helping with maintenance. Jayna will be expected to get a job next summer to help pay for many of these expenses, especially gas. That can be tricky when you’ve got sports practices and other activities, but it’s a great time to learn about time management and how to cram in work, school, and fun things you want to do without running yourself into the ground.

I’m not the greatest driver in the world; I surely don’t follow all the rules to a tee. After all, my friends growing up taught me that stop signs were optional if nobody was coming from a different direction. Actually, I might have even learned that from my mom, who failed her first driving test for coming to a rolling stop before proceeding through the intersection.  I know I’m not the only one who does this since every time I drive by Casey’s in Ellendale, it seems the stop signs leading out of their parking lot are invisible to cars racing back to Highway 30 or I35.

Here’s one thing that’s bothered me a lot lately about intersections and something that Jayna and I have talked about plenty: who has the right of way. As I recall, the first person to a four-way stop has the right of way. If more than one vehicle gets there at approximately the same time, the person to the right goes first. Yet I often find myself waiting for the person who clearly has that right of way to go. When they don’t, I start to inch forward, and that’s when they decide to do the same or just wave me on. I see the same plenty of times while waiting to cross Highway 13 as I enter New Richland. You were there first; even if you’re turning onto Highway 13, you go before me.

This is our hope as parents of young drivers, to introduce them to many scenarios. I know they’ll go over many of these in their classes and behind the wheel time, but finding ways to demonstrate situations can only help down the road. I hope.

I’ve always enjoyed watching my kids grow up and reach various moments such as what Jayna will hit one mere year from now. I’ve never been bothered much by them growing older. However, as she hurtles toward her 16th birthday, I’ll admit that I’m starting to feel the need to put on the brakes a bit. Much like her old man, though, I have a feeling my daughter will just roll through any stop sign I hold up!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is vituperative, which means criticizing bitterly, as in, “The daughter thought her father was a bit too vituperative toward the other driver’s failure to yield.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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