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Independence Day

Independence Day

A child's first driving lesson sends her mother into a panic.

by

I did it. I finally did it. I didn't want to, but I gritted my teeth and did it. I had no choice. Everyone else's mother did it, and so did I.

And now I'm totally traumatized.

What did I do? What was this nefarious act, this crime too heinous to mention? I signed my oldest daughter up for driver's education.

Why is it that the time when a child's hormones are raging and their emotions are flaring is declared appropriate for getting a driving permit?

Why is it that the time when a child's hormones are raging declared appropriate for getting a driving permit?

Who thought of that one? Someone who has clearly forgotten their own teenage years or whose sense of humor runs to the macabre.

When I learned to drive I lived in a small town with two lane streets and large empty parking lots for practice. We had a mid-sized car with easy viewing from all sides. It was a sleepy suburb, and the one time I slid across the icy road onto the island there wasn't another car in sight.

But we live in Los Angeles where no one walks, where the smog of the many cars renders the air unbreathable, where road rage was invented. And we have a 12-seater van, a large (!) vehicle that is a real struggle for the spatially challenged. How do I send my first child off driving such a car into such a world?

Yet how do I not? I can't hold her back from growing up. I can't protect her from pain, from making mistakes, from learning some things the hard way.

But a car ... there's so much potential danger involved, you have to drive so defensively, you have to stay off that cell phone!

Yet it's crucial for my daughter's self-esteem that I give her that independence, that I demonstrate confidence in her maturity, that I rely on her level-headed side, that I terrify her into driving safely!

LETTING GO OF THE CONTROLS

I like to be in control. But once you send your child off behind the wheel, it's out of your hands (I could hire a detective to tail her.)

She'll get her required experience, take her required test, pay for her required insurance (that one's on her) and she's off.

Just when you thought the sleepless nights were over...

And so, with nothing else left to do, I'll pray. I'll pray that she drives with a watchful eye, I'll pray that she keeps her cool, I'll pray for the drivers around her, and I'll pray that the Ultimate Watchful Eye is looking down on her.

I'll pray that the Ultimate Watchful Eye is looking down on her.

She's so excited. And so are her siblings. They've planned all the shopping they can do without me and all the fun they are going to have. (Do they realize that means without my wallet also?) They haven't factored in all the anxious moments and heart palpitations they'll be causing me as I sit home and wait.

It's another step along the path of letting go of your children and trying to create successful adults. We send them off to school, we teach them to ride bikes, to cross the street by themselves, to walk to a friend's house, to cook dinner. And each step of independence is a step away from us. And we know it's good. And we know it's right. We know it's what we have to do.

So we do it. We move forward one step at a time. We up the stakes and increase the difficulty of the tasks thereby multiplying the pleasure in the accomplishment. And we keep doing it. Because despite the agony and the gritted teeth, despite our hesitations and reluctance, it's what we want for our children after all.

Published: July 1, 2000


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