I read a news article maybe a year ago about a celebration for the 100th Roundabout in nearby Carmel, Indiana. The small city wanted everyone to know that they had more roundabouts per capita than any comparable town in Europe or elsewhere. “Good for them,” I remember muttering under my breath at the time, and “Note to Self: Keep out of Carmel!”
If anyone out there feels that they have mastered the roundabout, please contact me directly and immediately. I need a lesson. Then I need to give my child that lesson.
In fact, is anyone out there for hire as a private driving instructor? I’m only half-jesting. I like to think I’m a person who can recognize one’s weaknesses, and driving is one of them. Yet as the mother of a 17 ½ year old, I must act the part of a subject matter expert in driving a vehicle so I can share that expertise with her, the older half of The Precious Pair. The poor kid is like the The Last of the Mohicans, as they say — the oldest among most of her friends, yet she will be the last to earn her driver’s license.
Most of them already drive effortlessly in cars of their own, so she can usually find a ride, and that’s nice. Kudos to their parents! I salute you for a job well done. At the rate we’re going, we should get the beastly challenge of learning to drive knocked out by next Summer, maybe. It’s hard to tell at this point. But I do know one thing: I am not the person for this job.
Beyond the fact that I’m not a good driver myself – and apparently, according to my friends, I’m widely-recognized as such – I’m also a yeller on the road. Not as in Old Yeller. As in yelling. This is my instinctual reaction to fear, danger, and roundabouts. But come on, how does any parent embrace this ritual of teaching a child to drive? It’s basically engaging in anti-survival and represents the opposite of everything I’ve done as a parent, thus far.
All good moms and dads spend tremendous time, energy, and attention caring for and raising their children to understand how to live safely and healthfully, through a wide range of habits, from crossing the street properly to chewing their food thoroughly to brushing their teeth daily (most days is good enough). Then comes teaching them to drive. Putting them behind the wheel of a one ton-sized weapon, putting a younger sibling in the backseat who’s along for the wild ride without choice in the matter, and putting yourself in the usually-preferred shotgun spot to witness the action upclose – this is all while telling the driver-in-training, in so many words, “Go ahead and gun this baby. You will figure it out.”
I’m not made for this part of parenting.
Before you ask, yes, we have enrolled with the local driving school for support. But it seems that the infamous supply chain has also impacted the availability of driving instructors as there simply aren’t enough to serve the number of teens learning to drive in this town. The availability of these valuable lessons is slim pickings, and the process is comparable to snagging dining reservations at Disney. If you’re not on the app at the stroke of 6am when they publish the new schedule, then forget about your scrambled eggs with the princesses or your one-hour with the driving instructor. Honestly, can we give these people a round of applause or at least a Xanex for their efforts? They are true heroes in my eyes, capable of courage, patience, and a calm that I will never achieve.
But recently when the teen did score her second driving lesson, she was given the quintessential advice “You need more practice with your parents.” She couldn’t wait to tell me this, since I had been telling her repeatedly “You need more lessons with the driving school.” What comes first in this conundrum? Practice or Lessons? Practice with me does not seem overly effective, yet I’m trying harder to accept this role, to do it better, and to figure out why I’m so bad at this.
And I already know why I’m so bad at this. Because it’s all about surrendering control and handing it over to the teen driver who is my oldest daughter. The one who made me a mother in the first place. The one who tried as a toddler to run into a busy parking lot until I fully-convinced her that all cars and all drivers are dangerous. Fast forward to the one who is 8 months shy of turning 18. The one who is also leaving for college in a year and a half. The one who has shown me what pride really feels like. The one who also seems to break my heart every day right now with her stubborn nature and our disagreements, but who also has a magical way of picking up the pieces every time and putting it back together inside my chest like new and even bigger than before.
This is just the way it works. I can’t resist it. And by “it” I mean the inevitable cycle of this crazy parenting life many of us opt into. We pour ourselves into these people so they can successfully do things their own way and then leave us. That’s the end goal. Create the adult and they will leave. They will thrive. They will suffer. They will win. They will lose. They will drive. There’s no stopping any of it. And there’s no stopping the pain that accompanies this process of their growth.
Yeah, parenting can suck for a good portion of the time. But all the same, what a joy and a privilege it is to mold other human beings to become exclusively themselves. I just don’t want to teach the young humans how to drive. 😉