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After dropping my son off at his first driving class last week and looking at all the other teenagers anxiously waiting to start driving so they could have some space from their parents, I couldn't help but think, these kids are not old enough to drive. I am not ready for this. Maybe I should pull him out of the class?
Then as I was backing out of my parking space, I almost crashed into an oncoming car which was a pretty humbling experience. But it also made me pause and get to the root of why I was thinking about grabbing my son by his backpack and heading for the hills; it has nothing to do with the fact I don’t think he’s ready, I think what I am really feeling is that I am not ready to have a child that drives.
Am I capable of getting into a car with him and letting him have complete control over the steering wheel and my life? Am I going to panic and put a hole through the passenger side floor in attempt to make the car stop with my imaginary break?
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I specifically remember my mother doing this to me and I thought she was way too uptight to teach me to drive and I needed her to relax. I vowed I'd never act like that when my kids drove; I'd be calm and chill.
But here we are. I'm even more uptight about this milestone than I ever thought possible and I'm not sure I am going to be able to be of service and may have to hire a driving coach for him.
I know deep down my loss of sleep and drama I'm creating around this milestone, a milestone that is very exciting and a right of passage for him, is because it's another reminder he is taking another step away from being dependent on me. There may be a little bit of hesitance because I've only parallel parked twice since my driving test almost 25 years ago, and I'm not sure how we are going to climb that mountain, but I know this about something else entirely.
Also, I really need to learn how to parallel park.
The thing is, one minute your child is playing with fire trucks on the kitchen floor while you are prepping dinner, and the next you are writing a (very large) check to a driving school. It solidifies the fact your kid really isn’t going to regress and become little again.
It’s time for them to settle into a larger life, more independence, a job, less time at home, and there’s no going back from here. It’s glorious and scary all at the same time.
I've gotten great tips from fellow moms about this process and I intend to listen to every one and soak up all the advice because clearly, I need all the help I can get.
Keep a Sense of Humor
They've told me to keep my sense of humor around the whole thing and I will try-- it’s sure to keep my head in the game and not make my child feel like their mother can’t handle this experience that happens to almost every family on Earth. However, putting on a helmet every time we log driving hours is probably a horrible idea.
Invite Their Friends
Have their friend hop in the car with you and your teen while you are practicing—this way they can learn how to deal with distractions, like conversations, and how to deal with them.
I've heard you need to prepare yourself to let go a bit-- your taxing days are over and believe it or not, you are going to miss carting your teen around everywhere as it is quality time together. It’s good to have a talk with yourself and prepare you for that void without making your teen feel guilty about their newfound independence. And it’s not a bad idea to realize they aren’t going to miss you being their personal Uber either.
Remember It’s Not About You
While this new experience feels like a huge step for me, I need to realize it's not about me, it’s about him. When I was going to driver’s education, and taking my test to get my license, I didn’t really care how my parents felt about it. My son is no different.
If I can relax into this and be a little (okay, maybe a lot) cooler about my son driving than I feel, I will show my teenager I believe in him and he is ready for this. And when I think about it, it really will be great to have someone do some of the driving if we head out on a road trip or I need milk at the store.
So, if you are a parent whose teen is starting to drive and you have feelings about it, know you aren't alone. Just like every other stage our kids go through, we just need time to adjust, get used to it, and have a little faith we all make it through.