When I learned to drive, my Dad got me a Ford Taurus manual shift car. Yes, they made those. I’ll leave out the year this happened. I honestly don’t remember if I even shopped with him or if I had a choice in the matter. I vaguely remember being in a new business park with my Dad learning to drive. I must have blocked out a lot of this because of the anxiety and stress it caused. I was trying to please my father and attain this bit of independence I so desperately wanted.
As a teen, I enjoyed driving and I drove many hours on our family road trips. I would get so restless and bored that I would rather drive than sit in the back seat. This is why I have a difficult time relating to teenagers who have no interest in driving. I don’t see why it matters that they have full entertainment in the palm of their hands now; it still doesn’t make sense to me to not want that freedom and independence of a drive.
Anyway, my first two months of driving I spent turning right so I wouldn’t have to take off from a traffic light in the middle of traffic. Luckily I lived in a smallish town and was able to get some confidence driving a stick shift. I grew up in East Tennessee, so hills were my nemesis for a period of time. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that my father purposely purchased a stick shift as my first car. I now and forever will be able to jump into any manual transmission and figure it out. It’s not only about learning to drive a stick shift; it’s about learning and pushing through something that is scary and difficult to do. It builds grit. Throughout my life, I’ve hit some hard times and my response so many times has been “I’ll figure it out.”
Stick shifts do this for us. I didn’t have a choice. If I want to have independence and learn to drive this car, the only option I have is “I’ll figure it out.” For the rest of my life, I have that muscle memory….clutch, brake, gear, release and gas, repeat.
My daughter turns 16 soon. When she turned 15 I was not necessarily looking for a car for her, however, I wanted a little “beater” truck to use for messy jobs. I came across a little red S10 Chevrolet. I fell in love with it. It is the 4.3 L V6 (I did not know anything about this until someone told me) so it is a fast and fun little truck.
Then it hit me. This should be my daughter’s first car. I brought it home and half expected her to roll her eyes when I offered. But she didn’t. My offer was this…you learn to drive that stick shift and this truck is yours. She loved it. She washed it, jumped in the back and wanted pictures.
Since then she got her permit and has practiced driving my SUV.
She has had the high anxiety moments…and so have I! There have been moments of “STOP….okay GO!” and “MOM…you are making me panic!” It is a difficult learning experience. I have also had family members tell me, “She won’t be able to drive that truck. You probably need to get her something else.” I keep asking her if that is what she wants to do and she says, “No, I want my truck.” So that’s that. We have been in parking lots and around the neighborhood practicing. She needs a lot more but I am so proud of her grit. As long as she wants to keep trying, I will be willing to sit in the passenger seat, bounce around, stall, encourage, be scared, and keep encouraging her.
I realize times are different and the need to know how to drive a manual shift is becoming obsolete. However, teaching my daughter how to drive stick is not necessary about the need to know.
It is about the grit it takes to make a commitment to accomplish something, move through failure and not give up. It is also about that forever memory she will have of us riding in her first car with nothing digital, no automatic windows, no A/C, a radio, and laughing together! She and I will have that for a lifetime!