Monday, February 25, 2013

Look Mom! No More Training Wheels!

For the past 16 years, I have driven this kid around like a chauffeur. Basketball, tennis, baseball, school, friends’ houses, camps…a regular taxi service I was. And I am certain that I complained about it…just a few times. But today that would all change. The reality of the transition that was about to occur hit me when I got out of my car and the driver's license examiner got in and said, "We will be back in 15 minutes." "Okay, I will be here," I responded in a faint voice. I walked away and felt a surge of emotions: fear, disbelief, nostalgia all mixed up with excitement and anticipation. I stood frozen and stared at my car with my son and the tester inside, only to have my trance interrupted by my son bounding out of the car mumbling expletives, “Mom, you took the car keys!” “Oh sorry, honey,” I said as I fumbled through my purse and quickly handed them over.

I resumed my trance-like state, leaning against the outside of the driver’s license office building wanting time to stand still for just a moment. Please, just for a moment, so I can process this, wrap my brain around the idea of my son being able to himself. But my phone rang and it was my husband, who was out of town, wanting a play-by-play of our son’s driver’s test.  Well, the first play I  reported was our son managing to maneuver the car directly over a curb as he pulled out of his parking spot and made a right hand turn. I wondered if that did him in. But I knew he wanted this; he wanted this badly, and he had worked hard and practiced and I believed that he would find a way to turn a rough start into an acceptable outcome.

I saw a girl get out of a car holding a piece of paper and walking toward her dad. She was beaming. “Congratulations,” I said as she walked passed me. She smiled and thanked me and proceeded into the building to fill out paperwork with her dad. I wondered about my son's fate. After 10 long minutes and not much to report to my husband, I saw my son pull the car into a parking spot. I saw him step out of the car holding a similar looking piece of paper. He had a grin on his face and immediately gave me a thumbs up. A knot formed in my throat and I tried not to let the tears well up in my eyes as I got the words, "he passed" out to my husband.

A license to drive is a right of passage, a milestone, a part of the natural progression of our children’s development and a big step toward their autonomy. It is something to celebrate.  But at the moment when he emerged from my car with the same "I did it" smile that he has given me so many times over his life, I realized that my time with my son just took a huge hit. He will no longer be forced to spend those minutes or hours in the car with me transporting him to where he needs to be. He can get there without me. Should I rejoice in this? Sure. But now that I can feel this time slip away, I clearly see how precious it was. 

On the way home, I told him that I would miss the countless hours we had together in the car, heading to and from his games, practices and social events. I would miss the talking and the not talking…just being in the confined space of my car with him.  He was quiet, still reveling in the glory of his accomplishment. I wondered if he would miss that time we had together. Maybe somewhere in the distant future he would remember and be grateful for those times, but for the present moment, I got a very strong sense from him that he couldn't wait to be free!

So, on those days when you have spent more hours turning your steering wheel than you have doing anything else, remember that your calling as a chauffeur is only temporary. Try to cherish some of on-the-road time you have with your children.  And definitely buy yourself an awesome chauffeur’s hat!