That dreaded but inevitable day had arrived. The first day of real independence for my little girl. My baby was about to drive. She had been behind the wheel before but this was going to be real driving, on the street – no driveways or parking lots. Greater reward and greater danger.
I chose to take the leap after church. I figured after two hours of worship I had gotten enough of God’s attention to risk a teen driver. While I did my usual after church chatter with other Moms, I gave my speed demon the keys to just crank the car up. What was I thinking?
When I got to the parking lot I saw a Cheshire cat grin on my child’s face and the car facing in the opposite direction. I approached the vehicle cautiously checking to make sure no one was caught under it. The undercarriage had no prisoners, so I took my place in the passenger seat.
I knew backing the car up was no real challenge for my girl. Her grandmother had been letting her do that since she was 12. “That’s how I learned to drive, your granddaddy would let us back out of the driveway everyday” my Mom said in an attempt to reassure me. I reminded her that back then she lived on a dirt road and there were only five cars in the whole neighborhood, so really there was no comparison.
The real fun began when the rubber met the road – literally. The confidence drained from her as soon as we rolled out of the parking lot. She suddenly became that timid little girl, riding her big girl bike for the first time. I was actually happy to see her again.
“Turn on your signal” I reminded her as we made a right at a stop sign. She giggled. She was just nervous enough to listen to my every word. It reminded me so much of that first bike ride. I still remember the look on her face as I ran beside her. It was joy, fear and pride all at once.
Now she shrieked as a car whizzed by us. I reminded her that the car had brakes and she had permission to use them. I also threw in a mini lecture about the dangers of speeding – just as a bonus.
We got to a traffic light and she eventually stopped. Not to worry my mild case of whiplash should heal in a few days. As we sprang from the light like a jack rabbit, I gave her a few more pointers. Just as with the bicycle, I tried to help her while remaining hands off. It was once again the a perfect swirl of instruction and encouragement with just a dash of gentle correction. I could never admit how much I loved it.
I had to let go of her hand as she took her first steps. I had to let go of the handle bars as she balanced on her the two wheeler. Now I had let go of the steering wheel as she learned to drive. Parenting is full of moments where we must let go.
Hmmm. As I sense her getting the feel of the car, I am filled with pride. She is improving with every mile. Truthfully, I feel sorry for her father because he was not here to experience this. You can only have one first for anything and I am so glad this will be a memory we can share. I add one more prayer to all the others I had sent up that day. “Thank you Lord for letting me be here for this moment. Oh and please let us make it home safely”. I’m no fool, I’m still aware that I’m riding with a teenage driver. But this was the day she found her wings.