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A Mother's Notes from the Passenger Seat

teaching a teen to drive a mother's thoughts
Not my son driving, but doing something else he loves, shooting clay targets.

We’re teaching my son to drive, and we welcome all your prayers.

Seriously, if you’ve ever taught a kid to drive you know we aren’t kidding. It’s not so much about being fearful for our lives, but the stress of moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat. It’s a literal move, yes, but it’s also figurative.

This morning as I ironed my son’s clothes for church I told my husband I need to have our son iron his clothes himself on Saturday night. It’s not that he won’t or can’t, it’s that I’m so used to doing it for him I do it without thinking. We’re preparing for launch now. The date isn’t so close that we’re out of time, but it’s not so far away that we can just not think about it.

In almost every phase of his life, we’re moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat.

His physical driving has improved over the last few weeks of lessons. He can stop without throwing me through the windshield, so that’s progress. Parking is a different story though. When we walked into the house after today’s lesson he told me maybe his dad should teach him to park.

One point for him.

To be fair, I’m not the best at pulling into parking spaces straight the first time. I know that about myself. I also can judge which spaces allow me the room I need to get it right. That comes with practice. And practice means a lot of backing up and trying again.

He did say I was good at teaching him to drive forward and make turns, so that’s something right? I didn’t remind him of the sacrifices I’ve made for him. How my body will not ever be the same. How many late nights I spent with him when he was sick. How I got up early yesterday -- on a Saturday -- to drive half an hour and sit in the cold while he practiced shooting shotguns. Those are the typical mom reminders, except maybe the shotgun thing, but most moms have something comparable.

Truth? I wouldn’t change a bit of it. If I could turn back the clock and have my twenty-seven-year-old body and recoup all the sleep I’ve lost, but it would mean not having him in my life. I wouldn’t even consider it. Not for a millisecond.

So I’m moving to the passenger seat. I’m transitioning from coach to counselor. I’m guiding, but not forcing my choices on him (unless of course his choices are unsafe, I have limits). Outside of driving we’re also considering classes for his second year of high school. We’re looking at graduation requirements and college entrance requirements and soon the ACT.

A friend with little kids said she couldn’t wait to reach this age. I get it. Littles are hard and exhausting. We are at least mostly well-rested these days. And thank goodness for that. I can’t imagine making these decisions without the blessing of a good night's sleep. But the teen years are hard too.

What nobody tells you until you’re nearly through it is the years of 8-12 are the golden years. Your kids still love you but they sleep through the night. They aren’t driving and staying out late, but they can fix their own breakfast on Saturday morning. They aren’t embarrassed to be seen with you but don’t expect or need your constant attention. The years after all the neediness but before the middle school moodiness really are the best.

Alas, though, those years don’t last forever. None of the stages of childhood or parenting do. Maybe that’s what scares me about the passenger seat. Eventually, I’ll move from here too.


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