A parent celebrates the milestones in their child's life, right? We wait with great anticipation for their first smile, their first word or first steps. It is so exciting to watch them gain independence as they hit the milestones. It is fun to watch our children become the people they are going to be.
All this fun and excitement came to a screeching halt as I watched the 15 year old walk out of the DMV testing room with some swagger and a smile just to announce that he had passed and had a learners permit. Huh. I admit to being excited for him, but I will confess that was before I really understood what we were setting loose on the world. On the drive home, I began to have flashes of anxiety. I vividly recalled watching him fall as he learned to walk. Standing on my bed, throwing a sock off it, falling down and breaking his arm as his throwing momentum carried him after said sock. Memories of the first time I let him bike to school with a friend flooded back. I thought about the time he jumped on the shovel end of the snow shovel just to see what it would do, and how that hadn't turned out so well.
Upon arrival at home, the 15 year old held out his hand for my keys, and with great anticipation requested that we go for a drive. Fear immediately clawed at my stomach, but I was able to maintain a neutral expression as I calmly agreed and climbed into the passenger seat.
Though the distance we went was short, this was probably the longest drive I have ever experienced. We began by changing the radio station, adjusting mirrors, moving chairs, trying out the signal, horn and lights. We backed out of the driveway with great enthusiasm. There was some adjustment as the 15 year had to dispel himself of the assumption that the driver seat is in the center of the car. Once this was figured out, his ability to stay off the center line was greatly increased. Hazards and obstacles I had never really noticed in the neighborhood popped up in great abundance. Parked cars, stop signs, speed limits, people backing out of driveways, children, dogs, bikers, and yes cute girls. So many distractions.
Looking back on that moment, I have to say that he handled learning so many things simultaneously very, very well. So, is it worth it? All that fear and anxiety over something they will learn to do with or without you? The realization that when you hand over the keys of your car to him, you are handing him confidence, freedom and a milestone that is a rite of passage. The realization as he moves the chair back because he is taller than you, that your time with him is short. Yes it is worth it because of the smile on his face, the sense of achievement you can see he feels. The realization that this fearless 15 year old was once you. And besides, our parents survived it, right? So I suppose I will too.