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A New Driver in the House

Roughly six months ago we bought Jane a car. We made this purchase mindfully. As soon as Jane had her driver’s permit I had her do the bulk of the driving. My preference being that by the time she was ready to drive on her own she had at least a hundred hours under her belt. Six months later I do believe she had considerably more.

We gave Jane six months of driving an average of 45 minutes a day in her own car before she was fully licensed. We bought her a crossover with great safety ratings and enough power to get on the freeway safely but not enough to get into trouble.

I taught her to drive without screaming, crying or hyperventilating. It was actually quite lovely and for the past six months we spent more time together than we had in months prior. I sat in the passenger seat as we wound our way through town, first slowly and then with a little more confidence. Finally we hit the freeways and then the freeways at night. It was fun watching Jane gain skill and confidence. It had been many years since I’d taught my child a new physical skill. Once they’ve learned to throw a ball, run a race and tie their shoes they sort of acquire skills at school or on their own.

Two weeks ago Jane and I drove to the DMV together and I sat with another mother as our girls took their driving tests. They both passed. I hugged the other mother and we hopped into the passenger seats of our respective cars having shared a lovely moment in time but never asking for each other’s names. Sometimes it’s better when you don’t pretend that these passing moments are the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes we just witness another person’s joy, sometimes we share it, and then we move on.

Jane drove me home from the DMV, left me at the front doorstep, waved goodbye and then drove off to school. Alone. I did what everyone does when there’s a big moment. I called my husband. He was in a meeting. So then I did what everyone does when their husband isn’t around to talk. I updated my facebook status.

Then I got a bunch of emails about how I’ll never stop worrying about my daughter which confused me because I hadn’t started worrying about her. If I didn’t think she was safe I wouldn’t have let her get a driver’s license much less a car. I keep hearing about all these parents who worry every time their kid jumps in the car and I wonder if they’re naturally worriers and no amount of preparation would have them ready for this next step in parenthood or if their kids are actually in peril behind the wheel.

Then my lack of worry makes me worry. Am I too glib? Do I expect my kid to be someone she isn’t? Am I missing warning signs of something dire? Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about? Why does everyone worry except me?Fortunately I have the attention span of a caffeinated flea so I forgot that I was supposed to worry about not being worried and went back to feeling very lonely. Feeling unneeded and irrelevant. When I do this parenting thing correctly they don’t need me much at all and it’s rewarding to know that the kids are okay even though, on occasion, it leaves me feeling very not okay.