When I had four little kids, people would say things to me like, "They'll be grown before you know it!" And "They stay little for such a short time -- really enjoy it." And I'd smile and nod and think to myself, "I don't know what you are talking about, because I've been fetching sippy cups for nigh onto two centuries by now."
The thing is, even though little kids are changing and growing and learning so quickly, there is not SUCH an appreciable difference for the momma between say ages 4 and 6. Or 8 and 10. But between 14 and 18 -- holy cow -- they go from squeaky, high school freshman to college student. They take AP tests! They start dating! They LEARN TO DRIVE. It's like some time bomb explodes, shooting your precious, darling baby right through the stratosphere. And you are franticly running underneath them, yelling things like, "Remember, you need a good GPA to get into college!" And "Don't go to THAT party." "Don't drink THAT!" "ALWAYS LOOK WHILE BACKING!"
Right now, among other issues, we are back to driving. More specifically, I am teaching daughter number three (otherwise know as Rebecca Kate) to drive. It's funny how these jobs get divided in our family. Sterling potty-trained all four kids, and somehow (mostly because I'm around more) the driving instruction has fallen primarily to me. In Texas (where they do NOT offer driver's ed in the high schools) you can opt for a 'parent taught' class -- it's driver's ed homeschool style. Once you complete the first 6 hours of an online class, you are eligible to take the written test for the Learner's Permit.
Last Friday Becca took the test. [As a side-note, while I was waiting for Becca to complete her test this rather nice-looking, heavily tatooed man (probs about 30 years old), YELLS from the computerized testing area, "I FAILED!" And his mom, sitting near me, stands up, puts her hands on her hips, and screams back, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"] About a minute later Becca quietly walks over to me and says, "I passed." To which I replied, "Hallalujah!" because being at the DMV is just a little like what I imagine water boarding to be like.
Here's where the real problem comes. Once the child has the permit in their possession, they want to drive. A car. And you don't want to rain on their hope-enthusiasm-HEY-LOOK-I'M-GROWING-UP parade, so you drive with them.
People, when I'm in the car with a beginning driver I try my very hardest to remain calm and to project clear and precise instructions. I put on my elevator voice and instruct them to "turn on your blinker now and prepare to turn right." I even compliment them, "That was an excellent stop." I offer constructive criticism, "Next time start breaking earlier before the turn." And so on.
So the elevator voice happens about 1/3 of the time. The other 2/3 is rather more INTENSE. Wherein I say things like:
"Okay, stop the car. Stop the car! STOP. THE. CAR! Seriously, when I say stop you have to stop. Like RIGHT THEN."
I get especially antsy when I can see that we are close to being driven into mailboxes, curbs, or other vehicles. The driver/child is certain that they are not going to hit the mailbox, curb, or vehicle, but I know we are because I've been driving for 20+ years. And also? I have eyes. When I get antsy and intense the driver/child might start to huff and puff and feel like I don't trust them. I just put my hand on their shoulder and say, as sweetly as possible, "Honey, I love you more than anything in this world. But, in this case, I do not trust you."
At times the driving instruction is slow-going, but my oldest two did, indeed, become competent drivers. When they turned 16 and got their license I was faced with sending them off in the car without me. This made me a nervous wreck, so I instituted a Let's-Stay-In-Touch-Program. Here are the rules:
- When you leave the driveway, I'll stand on the porch and maintain eye contact with your car for as long as humanely possible. While you are turning left at the busy intersection to get out of our subdivision I will chant prayers of safety.
- When you arrive at your destination you must text me immediately to let me know you are safe.
- When you prepare to drive home you must text me before leaving, so I know to resume my chanting.
- While waiting for you to arrive I will walk by the front window/door every 7-11 seconds.
- If you forget to text me either upon arrival or departure I will take away your keys until you are 21.
These are real rules people. Except for the part about taking their keys until they are 21. I'm way too soft for that. But mostly the girls remembered to text because they worried about my personal sanity. Those sweet girls . . . always thinking of their crazy momma.
Here's my point (or at least one of many). Watching your kids grow up is beautiful and gratifying and angst-ridden and frustrating and downright scary at times. Certainly driving means broader vistas, winding roads, bright horizons.
But couldn't we just consider more walking? Less carbon emissions, less expense, less danger for my babies? Instead of zooming off into the sunset, how about some meandering walks where we just linger and smell the roses?