Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Handing Over the Keys

I wanted to go to the movies tonight. There was a 7:25pm show but to make it, knowing the cinema is 20 minutes away, I'd have to ask Sydney to take Ziva to puppy class from 6:15-7:15pm. She was more than happy to do that; a newly licensed driver, she was most agreeable to taking the keys and driving to the vet clinic. She'd already taken the car to go buy grapes for the orzo salad she was making. And she was not too happy with her 16 year old sister for not allowing her to take her to her own driver's ed class. So seeing an opportunity to take the car for the night, Syd texted her friend and made plans. She'd take Ziva to puppy class, bring her home, and then meet Chris a little after 8pm.

Suddenly, I did not want to go to the movies anymore. I didn't want to move from my seat on the corner of the couch. In fact, I am going to take shallow breaths until I hear the car driving back into the garage.

It's no secret in our household that I'm going through a tough time with her behind the wheel, but I am trying to accept this. "You need to let go Mom", Syd said to me. "You're nervous that I don't have experience, but the only way for me to get some is to drive more". Oh I get it. I was even reminded by my insurance agent, "You were there once too. You've got to remember that". But then he added, "You're going to stay up every night waiting for her to get home, aren't you?! Yes, that's what my wife did too. I went to bed, but she stayed there with her eyes wide open until our children got in safely".

I have long stayed up late waiting for my children to get home from being out with friends. Earlier in the summer I even made Sydney text me each morning after arriving safely on her bike at her workplace. I've done pretty well with other changes. Seeing her head off to college was more exciting than sad, for example. As a high school teacher, I surely realize and defend the notion that parents have to "let go" and accept that their children are growing up. I am not a helicopter parent because it's important to trust our children when they've done nothing to betray that trust. I know that Sydney is a legal adult and is therefore responsible for her own decisions. But I'm sorry. As much as I can trust her to do her best to drive safely and to make decisions carefully, she is presently an inexperienced driver and I don't trust the world of other drivers. Accidents happen and the likelihood of danger finding her is far too great. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens, according to the Insurance Information Institute. I just want to keep my baby alive. That's all.

So sure, you can tell me that I need to let go. You can tell me that every parent goes through this. You can tell me that eventually I'll need to move from this spot and allow myself to go to a movie because it truly doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing, time marches on and what will happen will happen. But just as I knew this all to be true when she was an infant, when I crept quietly over to her crib to make sure she was still breathing, for tonight at least (but I suspect for many more nights afterward), I'll sit right here and hold my breath until I see her smiling face come through that door.

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