LESLIE CRISS: Sometimes it takes an aunt to drive a lesson home

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“Automobiles are not ferocious … it is man who is to be feared.”
Robbins B. Stoeckel

“It helps if you don’t see it as traffic but rather as thousands of individuals resolved to press on another day.”
Robert Brault

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”
Dorothy Parker

A few weeks ago I took my niece, Bailey Elizabeth Cook, for a drive around Corinth.
She and her mother were in town visiting Bailey’s grandfather, our father.
Bailey had, weeks earlier, obtained her driver’s permit and was waiting to take a weeklong driver’s ed course in early summer.
She told her parents she was expected to know how to drive by the time the class began.
Somebody had a job to do.
Her parents took Bailey out driving several times.
After Bailey’s mama – my sister, Beth – took her driving, she called me and told me she felt like a failure because she was a nervous wreck.
I reminded her that our grandfather, not our parents, was the person who taught us to drive.
“There must have been a reason for that,” I told her. “I’ll take her driving when y’all come to Corinth.”
So, that’s exactly what I did several Sundays ago, when we all ended up at Dad’s house. Bailey and I went for a long drive. I was the passenger, she the driver.
I felt completely at ease with my niece at the wheel. I said very little, trusting her to do the right thing.
Early in our ride together, she turned the wheel a little too much to the right and started running off onto the gravel shoulder.
Trying to remain calm, I just said, “Careful. Keep your eyes on the road at all times.”
She got back on the right track and for the next hour or so, she was a great driver.
A part of me did not want to frighten her about driving. The Aunt Lee Lee in me, however, wanted to scare her to death so she will always be safe and careful.
It’s still difficult to believe this blonde, blue-eyed little girl is sliding on into 16 soon. But, like it or not, it’s happening.
I told her she should lock her cell phone in her glove compartment and only use it if she has an emergency and has pulled off the road to call for help. I hope she heard me.
I also told her she can be the safest driver in the world, but there are folks on the road who ought not be. Drive defensively.
Her mother needn’t feel like a failure at being a driving coach. Nor should Bailey’s dad.
It’s fairly common.
According to a survey by the AA Driving School, “One in 20 people think getting into the passenger seat with their learner child driving is the most difficult thing parents do – more so than giving birth.”
That’s what aunts are for.
leslie.criss@journalinc.com