I am teaching my son to drive. So far, so good...but I haven’t let him actually drive yet. In three days, he will be eligible for a permit...where did the time go?
Seems like just the other day he was a little boy, holding my hand as we crossed the street.
Now he wants to drive away to freedom to places I do not exist.
And I remember, the feeling. The need to get away. The car being the first and most important step towards independence.
He is like me in that way. He wants his own life. He wants to be his own boss. He wants his own house and life...and yet, he seems so much less ready for it than I was.
It makes me wonder if I did a good job mothering him. I have also had to father him too and perhaps one took away something essential from the other...
I guess it really doesn’t matter, we are where we are. He, like all teens, thinks he is way more ready for the perils of life than I do. And I don’t think there was any road, any manner in which I could have been more prepared for coming up against this rite of passage.
We have been out driving, me going over the rules of the road. Him listening, reflecting, commenting, asking questions. I guess I always thought it would be some guy with a clipboard and nerd glasses that taught him to drive. Not me.
But here we are - I wonder if I am competent to teach him to drive. I wonder if I have the patience to be an effective teacher. I wonder if he is ready. It is a huge responsibility with lethal consequences if he is not, in fact, ready.
I find myself wondering how any parent allows their kid to drive. So much peril and risk, the more we drive, the less I want him to ever get behind the wheel. Ever...
But teaching him to drive is just another benchmark in the motherhood journey. I don’t think that I realized exactly how much would be asked of me in being a mother. Thankfully, I guess, because if I really knew, I would have never done it. If I really knew what was going to come, I would have never had a kid.
So many twists and turns. So much responsibility. So much risk.
I wonder daily if I have done an adequate job. I wonder if I can teach him to drive, to be a good driver and to be safe. I wonder if he is ready, or perhaps we should wait a little longer...
He may be learning to drive, but I am learning a new lesson, in a long line of lessons in letting go.
It seems that is the task of a mother, any parent who is present really. It is a daily, sometimes hourly, request to let go of control, knowledge and thinking that you have a clue about what comes next.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant with him, I have been asked repeatedly and continually to let go.
When they told me he had Trisomy 18 and would not survive his first birthday...I had to let go.
When they told me I was diabetic and would have to be on four insulin shots a day to bring him to full term, I had to let go.
When they told me I had to be induced, then had to have c-section because he was in distress, I had to let go.
When he had to learn to walk, I had to let him fall.
When he had to go to school, I had to let go...every single day.
When he had to learn to ride a bike, I had to let go of the back.
When he wanted to go live with his dad, twice, I had to let him go...even though I didn’t believe it was what was best for him. I knew he needed to find that out...so I let go.
Now he wants to drive and I have to let that go too. I have give up control and allow for him to launch himself into the world, an independent being out there, doing whatever it is he is going to do.
I am not sure I want this job. I am not sure that I can let go again and more because I know this is really the final step towards him leaving.
Once he has license, he will leave a little more each day until he is gone, fledging bird out from the nest to find his own way in this world.
I know I have another 2.5 years, but I also know from experience that they will be gone in seconds. They will pass and I will find myself in the bleachers of the local high school stadium, crying, wondering how it could have happened so fast.
For me, this is hard.
For him, this is easy.
He motivated to gain some agency in this world. Me reluctant to let him go.
Life is always a delicate balance of letting go and hanging on...too much of letting go, we become apathetic and unfeeling, too much hanging on, we are controlling and stifling. I am not sure that I have ever gotten that balance right. But I know I have tried with all that I am, every single day.
So he is learning to drive and I am learning to let go more deeply, more completely and having to find a new faith that this new skill I am teaching him, will only take him so far...not away forever. That the freedom he desires will not take him so far away that he is gone, gone.
But I am not in charge of that. I am not in control. It is not my place to decide how far he travels. My job was to get him ready. My job was to give him a stable base. My job was to love him and guide him and keep him safe. Seems to me like teaching him to drive flies in the face of all my other jobs thus far.
But I know that all that came before is being used now. All the things I have given him thus far, needed and required for this next step in his journey into his own life. And it was my job, my responsibility to give him the keys...
I hope I have. I hope I have done a good enough job. I hope that he is ready. I hope I can let go...enough and give him what he needs to launch from here.
I guess I am grateful because in teaching him to drive, we are really recapping, revisiting all the other “rules of the road” of life now. And perhaps that is the point of learning to drive...a nice summary and recap of all the lessons of childhood made more poignant with the threat of twisted metal and shattered glass. Never have the stakes been so high, so real, so dramatic.
I could spend this time being afraid. I could make a lot of excuses as to why he needs to wait. Or I could do what I have always done...showed up in my best efforts and taught him everything he needs to know. To be the stable base. The loving support. The kick in the ass. The demander of accountability.
I guess I really do know how to teach him to drive...and I guess he really is ready to learn...because we have really already done the footwork...this just a global review of all that he already knows about life...and it turns out that those lessons, are what will save him on the open road. I pray.