So, my oldest child now has a driver's license and a car. It's my old car, my trusty Mazda 5, which I hated for many reasons and wasn't all that sad to pass on to the next generation. I replaced it with a Ford Flex, which I love more than any girl has a right to love a car because I feel like I'm driving a cool surf wagon and the seat AUTOMATICALLY ADJUSTS TO WHERE I WANT IT WHEN I GET INSIDE, but that's another story...
The real story here is one of letting go, something my generation inexplicably has difficulty with. My daughter and I were slogging through the Saturday crowd at the BMV the very first moment she was eligible to receive her small, plastic ticket to freedom (for me as much as her). As we waited, we watched dejected people swear under their collective breath because they'd been denied something by a BMV hag. We amused ourselves by coming up with the answers to interview questions one must have in order to be hired there. Some examples:
Q: Is customer satisfaction important to you? A: No.
Q: Is being efficient important to you? A: No.
Q: Do you like to take breaks at the busiest time of the day? A: Yes.
After we tired of that game, my daughter shared with me that she was surprised I was "letting" her get her license already, and that many of her friends' parents were too nervous to let them drive. Then, she revealed that many of her FRIENDS were too nervous to drive. Flummoxed, I remembered back to 1987 when I got my license. None of us could wait until we could drive. It meant absolute freedom and awesomeness. Why would anyone want to deny his or her child this autonomy and responsibility?
So after we got home after only two rounds and three hours at the BMV - I had not brought some obscure paper that we showed the lady on our phone screen, but we needed a paper copy - my dear girl drove off by herself as I took obligatory "driving away for the first time" photos for social media sharing, I did a little informal survey of people I know with 16 year olds. I was shocked to hear them say things like, "I'm not ready for (insert snowflake's name here) to drive. It's too scary," or, "(Insert name here) has anxiety," or "I don't mind driving (name) a little longer." It was the last one that really got to me - I couldn't wait to have my own snowflake driving herself to the dance studio and school and to her myriad social engagements! What has happened that we can't let kids grow up and be free? I don't want mine around living in the basement, so I'm sure as heck letting them hit milestones on time.
The best part of having another driver in the house came yesterday, when I was able to go out for cocktails and appetizers with coworkers after school. See, last week I wouldn't have been able to go because I would've needed to pick up one son at football practice. Yesterday, I texted the daughter, and made her go get the son. I got to be "not mom" for a whole hour until guilt prodded me home to fix food for everyone (why do they want to eat dinner EVERY DAY?).
My daughter and I both got more freedom that day at the BMV. Her head is a little higher as she knows I trust her, and she trusts herself. Do I worry a little every time I hear her fire up the fierce and mighty Mazda 5? Maybe. But I wouldn't trade that freedom for the world.
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Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.