Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moving out of the driver's seat...

I’m in the process of teaching my fourth and last daughter to drive. It’s sort of a sad/relieved/amazed kind of feeling as I sit in the passenger seat and encourage her as she maneuvers down the road. I clearly remember how scared I was to teach my oldest to drive. She just didn’t have that natural knack, but my husband and I were also inexperienced at teaching something we took for granted. After all, we had been driving for years and really didn’t think much about the “how to” of driving. How do we translate those skills into the young inexperienced brain of our child? It was painful for all of us, but she learned and so did we.

Just as each of my four daughters is unique in their personality styles and abilities, some of them have been more gifted at learning to drive than others. I have to admit my youngest has been easiest to educate when it comes to driving. It’s part of being the “baby of the family”, I think. She’s watched her older sisters conquer the learning curve and experience the independence of going places on their own. She told me once she was born to drive! She began to talk about driving on her 14th birthday. She started studying her DMV booklet 6 months before her 15th birthday, and then counted down the days until she could take the permit test.

She’s so ready to grow up and yet…she isn’t. Because once she got her permit and began actually driving to and from art class, she looked over at me and said, “Mom, I don’t like driving.” She feels the stress, sees the craziness and seemingly random actions of other drivers and has suddenly realized what a HUGE responsibility it is to get behind the wheel of a car.

The sad part of teaching my last daughter to drive has shown itself in my heart as I’m reminded how I’m moving out of the driver’s seat of my girl’s lives. Slowly I’m slipping into the passenger seat and talking them through as they maneuver down the road of life into adulthood. It’s sort of bittersweet and it’s definitely scary. Sometimes I want to grab the wheel from them. Sometimes I find myself trying not to scream out with warning. Sometimes I’m pushing with my feet onto the invisible brakes on the passenger floorboard trying desperately to SLOW them down. My youngest has watched her older sisters leave home, make choices, seeing the serious side of life through them. She’s lived through a house fire and watched her little brother suffer through cancer treatments. She’s anxious to grow up and be on her own and yet, she hesitates as she watches how hard life can be for her sisters or when she discovers that driving really isn’t that fun after all. That’s fine, I think to myself. Take your time.

My oldest will be giving birth to her first child soon. My first born is becoming a mother. She’s in the driver’s seat of her life along with her husband and her God. I’m a passenger now, there to encourage, there to give advice when asked. It’s sort of the same feeling I had when I began to teach her to drive. It feels scary and I feel inadequate. It’s a big responsibility, this thing called life. How do I teach her what I’ve been doing for years? Giving birth, raising babies, discipline, nurturing, paying the bills, loving my husband? How do I impart what I know to this young mother? I want desperately to take control, telling her how to take each turn, when to brake, and how to anticipate danger, but I know that time is past. I’m in the passenger seat now.

My second daughter is almost completely in the driver’s seat. My third is making her way into the driver’s seat and my fourth daughter is just beginning to move over to the driver’s seat. There’s no hurry. I’ll cherish the time.

I’ll be in the passenger seat soon enough...

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