by Becky Vawter Herren
I have a hundred kids. Well, four. But, my oldest is the oldest by a lot, so she is kind of her own generation. We practiced all of our parenting on her. This morning she took her driving road test to get her license. I must confess that I haven't ridden with her THAT much, because my car does not come equipped with a passenger side steering wheel or brake. Or Xanax. Her dad took on that job like a boss, but I was the one available today to take her to her test. Confession: I failed my road test the first time. Parallel parking is my nemesis. So I was fully prepared for this to be a trial run. When she came back grinning from ear to ear, we were both surprised. Her surprise was coupled with elation, mine with a click of dread. I hadn't considered the fact that she would want to drive herself to school.
So, when she pulled out, AWAY FROM ME ON HER OWN, I experienced something unfamiliar. When I said "click of dread," that's the only way I can describe it. Watching her pull away down the road was like pulling a string from my heart all the way to school. Listen, she's a good driver for a newbie. She puts her phone away, uses her signal, and actually looks left and right before pulling out. My meltdown had nothing to do with her skills. I simply was not prepared for the visceral, breath-taking realization that SHE IS DRIVING. My mind does a lot of fast-forwarding and what-iffing. I lettered in Worst Case Scenario with a minor in This Will Only Happen To Me. Here is where I went in approximately 7 seconds:
She's going too fast.
She's too close to the line.
She's actually an OK driver.
She will never want to come home.
She will meet a boy and never talk to us.
She will drive to Seattle and never come visit us.
She will drive to parties. Where boys are. And booze.
Why isn't she in my kitchen asking me to make her a baked potato?
I will never get the day's scoop on the way to swim practice again because SHE IS DRIVING HERSELF.
Other people are terrible drivers and are a constant danger to my kid.
We can all see where this is going. I think what bothers me the most about all of this is the people that say, "Oh, relax! Enjoy it! You're free now." Yeah, I get that. Cerebrally. And I don't want to hold her back from becoming a real adult. I really don't. I really do need her to go to the grocery and take her sisters to gymnastics and swim and kindergarten, sometimes. I just wasn't expecting that almost-audible click of the tumblers as her adulthood started to unlock. I have six years to practice before the next one pulls this. Don't shame those of us that shed just a tear or two through this transition. It's hard enough without parent wars. Increased insurance rates are painful enough; let's not add to that. I'm sure by the time number four goes through this, I will be more than ready for her to drive.
Just let me have my moment. And a tissue.
Becky Vawter Herren is a dentist, wife, and mom of four humans. She attempts to keep all those balls in the air on a daily basis. She also pretends to like exercise, but would rather take a nap. She and her family live in Southeast Kentucky.