Cover Story: Baby, You Can Drive My Car!

Daddy's little girl learns to drive

Jul 29, 1999 at 2:06 pm

My daughter has always been and will always be a great source of pride and inspiration. I can remember proudly holding my tiny newborn princess in the crook of my right arm like a running back would hold a football. I'll never forget the first wary steps she took as she made the transition from infant to toddler. In my eyes, she was the prima ballerina at her first dance recital. I've saved every piece of art she has given me through the years and have cherished all the big hugs and sweet kisses that she imparted to her ol' Dad along the way. My heart still leaps whenever she flashes that beautiful smile and calls me "Daddy."

Now, I must cling to those wistful memories of my precious little princess, because she is in the throes of adolescence, and our relationship has changed dramatically.

Oh, to have those early days again. Back when that sweet little face grinned at me for the first time, I would never have guessed that anything could possibly infringe on the bond of trust and love that has grown to exist between us — but that was before she was old enough to learn how to drive.

Even military training didn't prepare me for the trauma I would incur the first day I rode shotgun in the car with my precious baby girl taking the wheel for the first time.

How could my lovely princess ever put me through the hell I was faced with that day? Her wide right turns and panic stops made me wonder what sort of demonic presence had lurked behind that sweet smile all these years. To say the least, those harrowing moments have cast somewhat of a shroud over my idyllic memories of my little girl's flawless childhood.

Her lofty impressions of me have been stifled somewhat as well. The rift that resulted on her first day of driving will take some time to heal. She doesn't seem to understand my point of view concerning her driving skills and refuses to accept any of my more than valid explanations.

For instance, when I tried to tell her that exclaiming "WATCH OUT!!!" at the top of my lungs was merely meant to be a friendly reminder, she insists I was yelling at her. She says she didn't appreciate my praying at every intersection, and she claims she is still suffering from the embarrassment I caused her when I kissed the earth after getting out of the car.

After hearing both sides of the story, my wife agreed I had probably overreacted to my daughter's driving. So based upon my little girl's ardently negative testimony concerning the disastrous driving lesson with Daddy, I was ordered to seek professional help.

The Doc told me the shaking in my right hand would subside with time, and my twitching eyelid would eventually come to rest. He also told me I will need to relieve some stress in my life or my ulcer will never quit bothering me. I can still remember his shock and surprise when I gripped the lapels of his lab coat and begged for a tranquilizer. After he forced his way out of my grasp, he wanted to know just what was bothering me. That's when I asked the good doctor if he had any idea what it was like to teach a teen-age girl to drive! He told me to take two Tylenol and call a driving school in the morning.

Based on the doctor's recommendations, strangers have taught my daughter to drive. Nowadays, when my darling baby girl wants the car, the memory of those first harrowing moments of that fateful driving lesson still send a chill up my spine. Of course, a doting father's bright recollections of his little girl's precious childhood will remain forever. But I can tell you now I will never forget the day my teen-age daughter nearly "drove" me out of my mind. ©