words: Stoney Stamper
Images: courtesy April and Stoney Stamper
My control freakishness has been a relatively good asset to my career. I’ve always been a go-getter that got things done. I’m good at managing my time, and I’m good at prioritizing. I’m exceedingly good at handling upset people and making them feel good and important and calming them down. I’m a voice of reason, logic, and a problem solver. For the most part, I’m respected and well thought of, minus the rare occasion when I feel the need to bluntly set things straight or simply cut ties with someone, which I am not opposed to doing when necessary. Work is relatively easy for me. I’m just kind of built for it.
But, I also have three daughters. Gracee is three, Emma is twelve, and Abby will be sixteen in June. Up until five years ago, my job was really all that needed managing in my life. I didn’t have any kids, so my home life was pretty simple. But then I met April, and she had Abby and Emma, and then a few years later we had Gracee, and my whole freaking world turned upside down. These kids don’t need managed as much as they need corralling. Given that the two oldest have hormones that make them temporarily insane on occasion doesn’t help. I soon learned a very important and painful lesson: I may be the boss at work, but I’m not the boss at home. I like to think I am, of course, but the truth is, a flutter of their eyelashes, a pretty smile, and maybe a hug, and I’ll do just about anything they ask. Usually, it’s fairly small. Take them to the store. Help them with their homework. Help them with their FFA projects. Things that I can generally handle without too much problem.
But here lately, there’s been another task added to my fatherly duties, and for the first time, I am not one hundred percent sure that I am up for the task. For a control freak like me, this is the ultimate test.
Nothing, and I repeat nothing, is quite so humbling and frightening as relinquishing control of your motor vehicle to your fifteen-year-old daughter. Never in my thirty-seven years of life has it been so difficult to sit idly by and watch someone else do something. And in MY truck? You’ve got to be kidding me!
Unfortunately, this is my reality. My daughter will be old enough to drive soon, and I can either teach her the right way to do it or pay for lots of repairs and an insurance premium that’s higher than Bob Marley. So even though my heart was screaming NO, my brain was telling me I had no choice. I started Abby off slowly, letting her drive around the pasture. I’d watch as she made slow, lazy circles around the field and occasionally, she’d throw it in reverse and try to back up to something (usually it was unsuccessful). Because I’m old, I didn’t have to take driver’s education classes, but since it’s mandatory now, the wife and I got her enrolled. I had this crazy idea that when she was done with her three-week class, she’d be a knowledgeable and competent driver. Boy, was I wrong. So wrong. I’m not really sure what she learned in there, except that a red, octagonal-shaped sign means stop. The class did do one thing, though; it made her feel much smarter. She became a worse backseat driver than her mother. “You’re following too close!”
“Stoney, you’re speeding!”
“Oh my gosh, you totally just ran that red light!”
That got old, and fast. But still, even after the class, she had no real experience behind the wheel.
That, my friends, fell on me.
Abby in the driver’s seat of my truck. Me in the passenger’s seat, sweating bullets. “OK now, put on your seatbelt. Adjust your seat and mirrors. OK, now put it in reverse, and back out slowly. SLOWLY! I SAID SLOWLY!” That was me before we’d even backed out of the driveway, and she was already going too fast. But then, once we got on the road, she was going way too slow.
“OK, go a little faster. Whoa, OK, a little slower. Get back in your lane! OH, MY GOSH, ABBY! STAY IN YOUR LANE!” Then she screamed back, “STOP YELLING! YOU ARE MAKING ME NERVOUS!”
And so I replied, “WELL, YOU ARE MAKING ME NERVOUS!”
We made a loop around town, zigzagging down the road at thirty miles per hour in a sixty-five mile per hour zone, and then sixty-five miles per hour in a thirty mile per hour zone, changing lanes without checking the mirrors and not using blinkers. We took a back road that would lead us back to the house with less traffic. As we approached our road, she didn’t seem to be slowing down.
I said, “Your turn is coming up.” But still she maintained her speed. I said again, “Hey, your turn is coming up. HEY! You’re going to miss the turn!” And just when I thought she’d surely miss the ninety-degree turn from Blackjack Road, she turned the wheel hard, without ever touching the brakes. Of course, we were going too fast, and our momentum wouldn’t allow us to make the turn. Into the far ditch we went, missing the oncoming stop sign by inches. She slammed the brakes, and we both sat silently for a moment. I think we were both reflecting on our lives and thankful to still be with the living.
I looked at her. She looked at me. And then she said, “I was going too fast.” Yeah. No joke, kid.
A few months have passed since then. Her driving has improved, and thankfully the ditch incident is still the closest we’ve come to a fiery crash. But the good news is, I’ve learned that yelling and stomping on the imaginary brake pedal in the floorboard on the passenger’s side does no good. I’ve learned to take deep breaths and give constructive criticism, rather than scream bloody murder and duck for cover. I am proud of her for becoming a better driver, but secretly, I may be a little prouder that I’ve learned it’s OK to hand over the reins to someone else, even if it’s just for a bit. Even if I’m handing them over to a teenager. Who says you can’t teach an old dog
is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife April have three daughters: Abby, Emma and Gracee. Originally from northeast Oklahoma, the Stampers now live in Tyler, Texas. For your daily dose of The Daddy Diaries, visit Stoney on Facebook or on his website, thedaddydiaries.net.