I Taught Three Daughters to Drive, and Lived to Tell the Tale

I taught three daughters to drive, and lived to tell the tale. Raising three daughters was a delight when they were small. I got down on the floor and played tickle with them, wrestled with them, read to them, played the princess, the ogre and the castle (I was the ogre), had nerf bat fights, played hide and seek…many wonderful memories. If I found them in danger, I could just pick them up and move them out of the way. Then they grew into teenagers, and old Dad was lost. Taught three daughters to drive

I tried talking to them but never knew what to say. Whenever I tried to explain anything, they automatically went into argument mode. Two of them would argue with me until hell froze over, and the other one would go into her room and nail the door shut. Taught three daughters to drive

Then, there were the arguments with Mom. I spent much of their teenage years hiding in the basement with our male cat, while the girls argued with their Mother. The noise level often became unbearable, and the quarreling could last for hours. Those teenage years were difficult. But, some of the most challenging times were when I taught them to drive. Taught three daughters to drive

I have always been the car guy in the family (I’m actually the only ‘guy’ in the family). I love cars, and have spent my life reading about them, test driving them, and finally buying them once I could afford it. So, I was the logical parent to teach our daughters to drive. Unfortunately, they learned to drive during those teenage years (remember the aforementioned argument mode?). Taught three daughters to drive

The oldest daughter had strong opinions about everything. Once she became a teenager, in her opinion Dad had clearly gotten really dumb. In her mind that once great hero that read to her, played with her, and took her to Chuckie Cheese when she was little had turned into the village idiot. This made teaching her to drive especially challenging. For example:

Dad. “You need to wear your seat belt.”

Daughter. “No I don’t. It’s uncomfortable, and I’ll never have a wreck anyhow. Besides, when you were a little boy, they didn’t even have seat belts. (Probably never should have told her that).

Dad. “You need to keep both hands on the wheel.”

Daughter. “No I don’t. I can drive better with one hand. Besides, I need the other hand to change the radio stations or put in a CD so I can listen to my tunes. I can’t drive around without listening to my music.”

This situation was further complicated by the fact that, at the time, we had two cars, a very large Ford Expedition with an automatic transmission and a Jeep Wrangler, with a five-speed manual. I tried to convince her that learning to drive a stick shift would be a good idea in case she ever found herself in an emergency where that was the only thing available for her to drive. She did not agree, so the Expedition it was. Taught three daughters to drive

At the time, we lived in the country, in the middle of nowhere. The majority of driving occurred on very narrow curvy country roads. Our Ford Expedition took up most of the road. In all fairness, this made it difficult for my daughter. The good news, she sat up high with a great view of the road. The bad news, there was little space for her to negotiate around oncoming cars. Taught three daughters to drive

The first time I took this daughter out to teach her to drive, we went to the local State Park. It was Fall, the weather was cool and the parking lot fairly empty. Therefore, I put her in the driver’s seat and let her drive around the lot for a while, getting the feel of the behemoth of an SUV. She did well driving around the gravel parking lot; didn’t hit any parked cars or drive into the lake. I drove us home, and when we got there, Mom asked me to take the garbage to the local dump. I got a brilliant (not so much) idea. I decided to let my daughter do the driving. Taught three daughters to drive

We arrived at the dump without incident. It was late in the day, there wasn’t very much traffic, and she was getting the hang of handling the SUV. The small local dumping site was located on a sharp curve. When we arrived, the curve approached from the other direction. My daughter had an uneventful right turn into the dump site. She parked, I unloaded the garbage and re-entered the vehicle. She managed a three-point turn, which made me proud, and positioned the SUV to re-enter the country road. This time, she had a left turn, with the sharp curve approaching on her right. Taught three daughters to drive

She carefully looked both ways and pulled onto the highway. As she did so, I saw an approaching vehicle coming around the curve on our right. I said, perhaps a little too loudly, “Truck! There’s a pickup truck coming!” I might have also grabbed the ‘oh-my-God-bar’ and braced for impact. Taught three daughters to drive

My poor daughter did not react well. Already on the highway and running parallel to the center line, she yanked the steering wheel hard to the left and stepped down hard on the gas. To this day, I’m not sure why she reacted in this manner. However, next thing I knew, we had driven through a ditch on the left side of the road and were headed up a hill towards a fence with a herd of cattle peacefully grazing just behind it. I tried to scream out for her to hit the brakes, but my voice had deserted me. We got about half way up the hill towards the fence before my daughter finally slammed on the brakes. The engine died and the car slowly rolled back down the hill, settling abruptly into the deep ditch. Taught three daughters to drive

We sat there for a couple of minutes, our minds trying to process what had just happened. When I finally came to my senses, I exited the car to walk around to the driver’s side and take over the wheel. As I walked around behind the SUV, I saw the pickup truck that had come around the corner behind us sitting in the road, the male driver looking concerned. He didn’t say anything, but when he saw me open the driver’s side door and help my daughter out of the SUV, he just smiled a knowing smile, tipped his hat and went on his way. He obviously had a daughter or two himself. Taught three daughters to drive

The good news, the Ford Expedition is a large four-wheel-drive SUV, built for driving through deep ditches and up hills. It could have probably even taken on a cow or two if necessary. So, neither the vehicle nor its passengers were damaged physically. It was a couple of weeks before I could get my daughter to take up our driving lessons again. However, she eventually became a good driver and got her license. Taught three daughters to drive

For her first car, we bought her a used Nissan Sentra, with automatic transmission and good gas mileage. She had the car for a total of two weeks when she came home from school with the left rear fender crumpled and the left rear light broken. When my wife asked her what happened, she told us that another student had backed into her in the high school parking lot. According to our daughter it was a hit and run; the person who hit her car left the scene without reporting the accident or leaving a note. Our daughter was sympathetic to the other student, and asked us not to pursue it any further. Our insurance company was not so sympathetic, and our premiums went up considerably. Taught three daughters to drive

When it was time for our second daughter to learn to drive, I gave her the same pitch about learning to drive a stick shift. This may have been a mistake. She chose to learn to drive in my favorite vehicle, my 2002 Jeep Wrangler Sport. I took her to the same State Park parking lot, and she may have displaced some of their gravel learning to use the clutch. After she let out the clutch a couple of times and the car died, she decided to hell with the idea of a ‘clutch friction point’. She simply revved the accelerator, popped the clutch, and threw gravel everywhere as we blasted off, headed for the lake. Taught three daughters to drive

Fortunately, she remembered the brakes and applied them in plenty of time before we got to find out if my Jeep would float. It took several more tries and considerable gravel displacement before she got the hang of the clutch, but soon she was driving around that parking lot like a champ. She got tired of driving in first and second gear, and being an impatient young lady she asked if we might proceed to the highway. For some reason I agreed. If memory serves me correctly, my wife was the only one who was able to say ‘no’ to our girls. All they had to do was give me ‘the face’, and I was lost. I had no defense against this clever tactic. Taught three daughters to drive

So, onto the highway we went. We were tooling along just fine, and she got it up to fifth gear at around 55 MPH. Then, we came to the first of many sharp curves. Those Southern Virginia country roads are just loaded with such curves, some so bad you have to be careful not to hit yourself in the ass as you go around them. Taught three daughters to drive

Anyhow, I vaguely remember suggesting she might slow down a bit. Jeep Wranglers are known for being slightly top heavy, and do not corner quite like a Porsche Cayman. We took that first curve on two wheels, and for a moment I felt a little like a passenger in a movie stunt car. This scared the hell out of me, but my daughter thought it was fun. Once my heart restarted, I made her pull over, and I drove us home, where I needed a couple of martinis to calm my frayed nerves. Taught three daughters to drive

My wife and I explained what could have happened if the Jeep had rolled. We finally convinced this daughter that she was not Speed Racer, and she promised to slow down. She was allowed to continue to drive the Jeep once in a while, but it was still my car, my special toy. We bought this daughter a used Toyota Corolla to drive back and forth to school. Taught three daughters to drive

A mere two weeks after we gave her the car, I got a call on my cell phone.

Daughter. “Dad, I have some bad news.”

Dad. “Are you okay? Where are you?”

Daughter. I’m on Route 608, on my way home from school. I just hit a deer, and my car’s sitting on the side of the road. The right front end is all tore up. I’m fine, but I feel sorry for the deer. It ran off, but it was limping real bad.”

Dad. “Are you sure you’re okay? I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

I was very grateful that this daughter didn’t get hurt, and it was sweet that she was concerned about the deer. Once again, our insurance company was not so sympathetic, and our rates skyrocketed. I was sad. I was even sadder when this daughter drove off to college, in…you guessed it…my Jeep Wrangler Sport. She didn’t like the Toyota, and she really did like the Jeep. She gave me the face, which to this day I have no defense against, and next thing I knew my Jeep had gone off to college to study meteorology. Taught three daughters to drive

Then there’s daughter number three. She came along seven years after daughter number two, and was a bit of a surprise. She’s very smart, argues like the best of lawyers, and has ‘the face’ down to a science…and she’s also the baby of the family. I have absolutely no defense against her, which almost came to a bad ending. I’m thinking I should thank God every day for the fact that I, and my daughters, are still around. When this daughter was only fifteen, she started talking about wanting to drive. Taught three daughters to drive

At the time, I had replaced my 2002 Jeep Wrangler Sport with a vintage 2006 Jeep Wrangler Anniversary model. This daughter really liked that car, and she asked me if I might teach her how to drive it. She had actually heard me give the pitch to the second daughter about learning to drive a stick, and she in turn used it on me. (I told you she was smart). I had also made the mistake of mentioning to her that when I was fifteen, my father had taught me to drive an old pickup truck on my grandfather’s farm. So, she was also armed with that information. Taught three daughters to drive

She convinced me that it would be a good idea to teach her to drive the stick shift Jeep, at age 15. Why wait? She’d be way ahead of the curve by the time she was ready to take Driver’s Ed. I told her I didn’t think this was a very good idea. Taught three daughters to drive

A week later, I took her out in my 2006 Jeep Wrangler to teach her to drive it. I pulled off of the side of the road in an area where there was generally little traffic. It was also early in the morning, so we were even less likely to encounter other cars. The Jeep was sitting partway on the road, one read wheel on gravel and the other on pavement. Taught three daughters to drive

She took the driver’s seat, and I explained all the ins and outs of driving. I went over the ‘clutch friction point’ in great detail. I explained how to shift gears, brake, steer, use turn signals, all of it. My expectation was that she would start out slow, drive around a little in second or third gear, and then we’d go home. It was always humbling how little I really knew as a father. Taught three daughters to drive

As with daughter number two, on the first try she pushed in the clutch, foot on the brake, started the car, put it in first gear, gently released the clutch while giving it some gas, and killed the engine. However, this daughter was only 15, and has never been a particularly patient person. Second try, she pushed in the clutch, started the car, pinned the accelerator to the floor and popped the clutch. Taught three daughters to drive

Now, a Jeep Wrangler has a very strong transmission and engine, for the purposes of rock climbing and climbing up trees when needed. With maximum engine rev, when she popped the clutch the rear wheels went into dragster mode; the Jeep sat still while the wheels kept spinning, smoking and throwing gravel everywhere. Even worse, the Jeep was aimed at a dense patch of forest on the opposite side of the road, and when the wheels finally caught traction, we were going to crash…end of story. Taught three daughters to drive

I seem to remember yelling repeatedly, “Clutch! Brake! Clutch! Brake!” Once again, through the grace of God, a miracle happened. My daughter depressed the clutch with her left foot and hit the brakes with her right. When all was said and done, we were sitting in the exact same spot where we had started, and I was thinking perhaps I should take my Jeep to the local drag strip. I was a nervous wreck, and probably suffered a minor stroke. My daughter, on the other hand, said something like, “Oh, Wow! That was awesome! Can I do it again?” Taught three daughters to drive

Again, my bad. What was I thinking? She was only 15. All’s well that ends well. When she reached actual driving age, we bought her a Honda Fit, automatic transmission. She learned to drive the Fit, got her license, and later I taught her how to drive the Jeep. She did a great job on the second round, using the clutch like a champ and negotiating those curvy country roads like a pro. Taught three daughters to drive

I never did take my Jeep to the local drag strip, and sometimes I regret that. Anyhow, this daughter learned from her mother to love Subaru Foresters, we bought her one when we decided the Honda Fit was too small and unsafe, and that’s what she took off to college. She now lives in New York City, where she doesn’t need a car, so there’s that. Taught three daughters to drive

My daughters are all grown up, and I’m an old man. I loved them, and hugged them, and kissed them and squeezed them when they were little. I was lost once they hit the teen years, although my two things as a father to teenage daughters were teaching them to drive and scaring off those pesky boys whenever possible. To this day, I’m amazed that we survived my teaching them to drive. (As to the boy thing, that’s for another blog post). Taught three daughters to drive

As I finish this blog post, I find myself starting to tremble with anxiety. Perhaps I’m suffering from PTTDDS (post-traumatic teaching daughters to drive syndrome). Taught three daughters to drive

I have a couple of thoughts that might help future fathers. First of all, I’ve discovered the Oculus Quest, where I can go into a virtual world and ride a roller coaster, fly with the Blue Angels, ride in a dragster…do all sorts of awesome things that are very realistic. So, why couldn’t someone write a program that allows fathers to teach their daughters to drive in a virtual world? You could teach her to drive from the safety of your couch. Just be careful not to fall off the couch when she crashes into something virtually. And never, ever, ever teach your daughters how to drive your Jeep Wrangler. Taught three daughters to drive

If this blog post made you laugh, you’d probably enjoy reading PLEASURIA: TAKE AS DIRECTED and MURDER BY ROAD TRIP, my two comedy murder mysteries. For links to Amazon, Barnes&Noble or Indie Books to buy the books, go to https://johnjjessop.com Good mysteries, some LOL comedy, and you might just find yourself a new favorite authorJ