My oldest son has been itching to drive. When he got his driver’s permit last year, it was countdown time for him. Countdown to freedom, power, independence.
It was also countdown time for me. Countdown to the yikes-my-son-will-be-alone-behind-the wheel-of-a-powerful-fast-vehicle-capable-of-going-80 m.p.h.-with-a-slight-push-of-a-pedal. What if?
So hard to let go.
He had a lot of practice over the past year. I admit, I was a total backseat driver. Slow down! Get ready to turn! Change lanes! Did you check your mirror?! Your exit is coming up! You’ve got to make a complete stop at a stop sign! Watch your speed!
And stuff like that.
When he drove, our reactions were pretty much:
Am I ever going to stop worrying?
And then. I remembered when I was 15 going on 16. All I wanted to do was drive. I was an excellent driver!
Actually, not so much…
- My driver’s education teacher said I had a lead foot.
- I took my driver’s test twice, because I flunked it the first time.
- My father taught me how to drive a manual in a Ford truck. While still a clutch novice, it was chug, chug, chugging across intersections.
- The weekend after I (finally) earned my driver’s license, I got a ticket for running a red light. My mother let me borrow her Fiat convertible for the evening–oh, so cool, with the top down and friends in the car. Yellow light, red light, then police lights. Busted.
- So yeah, traffic school at the age of 16. Eight hours on a Saturday.
- Once, I was driving along the coastline, on a curvy highway. I pulled over so we could check out the view, but didn’t estimate the short stopping distance. Slamming on the breaks, we were inches from the cliff’s edge.
- Once, I totaled that sporty Fiat. On the freeway, traffic stopped suddenly and I rear-ended the car in front of us. Our car was not salvageable. Fortunately, we walked away with only minor concussions.
So, yeah, Am I ever going to stop worrying? Given my driving history and bumps along the way, probably not. There will always be new things to worry about.
I talked to both of my parents about when I started driving.
Was my mother worried? YES. We had a good talk about my driving shenanigans. It’s all funny now. Remember when?! But she told me that she had to let go and trust that everything would be OK.
Did my father remember teaching me how to drive a stick? Of course. Was he worried? Not really, he said, because it’s part of growing up. But he did suggest that I might say a prayer when my son gets behind the wheel.
Talking to my parents really put things into perspective. I have come full circle.
It’s OK to worry. But as a parent, I also need to encourage and support. And let go. And maybe say a prayer (or three hundred).
My son turned 16 and is now driving daily. With each day, he has more confidence. And you know what? With each day, I have more confidence in him. And in myself. For learning to trust and let go.
Happy Mother’s Day!