SMALLER Son is learning to drive. I'm doing a lot of squawking.

I'm not actually teaching him, you understand. He has a driving instructor for that. (Why do people become driving instructors? They must have the patience of saints and nerves of steel. Or just be plain masochistic or mad.) But I take him out for practice.

Hence the squawking. I try really hard to be positive and encouraging, but from the moment we back out of the drive (lots of parked cars, bad visibility, tricky bend) I cannot control those involuntary yelps. Same when he goes too close to parked cars or too fast round corners. "Aaaghhh!" I say as a hedge comes hurtling towards us. And I cling to the seat and my foot is slammed uselessly on a totally imaginary brake.

I know it doesn't do the lad's confidence any good, but there you go. Even mothers are only human.

Ideally, of course, he wouldn't have me in the passenger seat, but would teach himself to drive.

It must be 13 years now since he taught himself to ride a bike. One day he took his brother's BMX - heavy, awkward - out into our gently sloping drive, tried to get on it and fell off. Grim-faced and determined, oh alright then, absolutely bloody-minded, he got back on again. And again.

A few hours and many falls later, he could free-wheel slowly down the slope. By tea time he was wobbling round the pavement. Next day he was racing round the road. A neighbour, whom I'd not meet until then, came over to voice his admiration. It had, he said, been as good as a cabaret watching this little chap mastering the big bike.

Now they can watch him doing three point turns. The technique's different, but the expression's just the same.

Then, of course, you can't help thinking if they should even be learning to drive. Every day there are reports of horrible accidents, cars full of teenagers turning over. Heart-breakingly optimistic school photographs published against the burnt-out wreckage of a first car. Cars are deadly weapons, so should we really be sending our children out to play with them?

Ten people a day are killed on our roads. What makes us think that our kids are so special that they won't be among them? Those are the sort of thoughts that can keep a mother awake at night.

He longed for his 17th birthday, had the licence all ready. But I sort of hoped we could put off the driving lessons until he was a bit older, around 40 say.

Still, today we went to Tescos - a round trip of about 20 miles with lots of traffic, roundabouts and cyclists. And guess what? I didn't squawk once. I think we might have cracked it.

But if you're in a queue behind a learner, please remember you were a learner once. Be kind, be patient. And spare a thought for the anxious mother beside him.