So Dr. Smooth got his learner's permit this week. In other words, the number of gray hairs on my head has multiplied considerably. It seems so odd to sit on the passenger side and look over and see him driving. I have some control issues with being in the passenger seat anyway, so it takes a lot of deep breaths and concerted efforts to make my voice remain calm. I feel confident that he has a good head on his shoulders and that he is responsible and careful. I feel confident that he will become a good driver with practice and experience. It's all the other
idiots drivers on the road that I worry about. I feel suddenly hyper-aware of all the dangers that exist in our daily travels. What if that one doesn't stop? What if that one pulls out in front of him? What if that one crosses the yellow line? What if that one is texting or drunk?
I realize that we all face all these possibilities every day, and that he faces those same dangers if he is riding with me or anyone else. But it somehow seems different when he is driving. I feel like he is so....vulnerable.
Over the past couple of years, many of my friends have had children who have crossed the threshold into "legal driver." And I have always asked them how on earth they handle that without a panic attack every time the kid leaves the house. They pretty much all told me the same thing....that by that point, you are so happy not to have to drive them everywhere that you really don't even think about it. It's a relief, they say with a smile.
So I guess I am even more neurotic than we already knew, people. Because I am a little lot more freaked out than relieved.
I remember when I was pregnant with Dr. Smooth, and I would faithfully read my "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book each night, trying to do everything "right" so nothing would go "wrong." (Isn't control a funny illusion? As if my actions could actually "prevent" anything going wrong. Yeah, right.) But I eagerly waited to reach each milestone in the book so I knew he was "safe" and "okay" in there.
Then when he was born, I faithfully read What To Expect The First Year. And again, I read all the possible disasters and conditions and mistakes that could happen, and I held my breath through each milestone we passed.
I remember having a conversation about SIDS with a dear friend at work one day and saying I would be so glad when he got older and he was just safe and there wasn't so much to worry about.
She laughed at me. Loudly. And she said something I will never forget.
"Having a baby is like deciding to take your heart out of your body while it is still beating and let it walk around, hoping nothing happens to it. You will always be worried about him, and you can never keep him safe. You just have to let it go."
And she was right. But she didn't follow that up with exactly how you're supposed to do it.
I've already told y'all how much I suck how well I do at Parenting Brave. I'm not exactly an expert at it. But I do try. Every day. And I am letting him drive the car. That's good, right?
I truly want him to live life to the fullest and experience everything it can offer him, but would it be too much to ask for him to be inside a big, huge bubble for the journey?
Yesterday he was entering the Publix parking lot and just as I was casually warning him to watch the lanes in parking lots because sometimes people pull out, some idiot gentleman rolled right through the STOP sign before he saw us. He was blocking about half our lane. Dr. Smooth hit the brakes and handled it fine, but I wanted to jump out and say, "Excuse me! Do you see that STOP sign? This is his third day driving and he doesn't need you pulling out in front of him and making it more stressful." But I didn't. I figured the embarrassment of me being a raving lunatic would have been much more stressful for my kid, so I refrained.
I think part of the problem is that I remember too many things my friends and I did when we started driving....and we were good kids (who made some really dumb choices). Did you know you can make a perfect circle in black if you pull the emergency brake and spin a "donut" on a bridge? Now there's a great idea for you. Or that you can pass someone's purse through the window of one car into another car going down an interstate at 65 mph? Brilliancy there. Or that if you really wanted to, you could fit fourteen people in a Honda Accord? Sheer stupidity. And yet we made those choices as smart kids who made good grades and generally stayed out of trouble.
So yeah. I worry about Dr. Smooth driving. I worry about the choices he may make in the throes of youth when life is spread before you like an endless horizon and everything seems possible since you believe nothing bad can happen to you.
I can't protect him from those choices. I can't protect him from the other drivers on the road. I really can't protect him from anything at all. But, oh how I wish I could!
So I guess I'll just pray a lot. (and still worry a little 'cause I'm human). And I'll put a smile on my face and in my voice as I tell him, "Way to go. You're doing great." Just like I did when he crawled. When he walked. When he rode a bike. When he started school. When he roller skated. When he swam. When he started middle school. When he skateboarded. When he did indoor skydiving. When he started high school.....