By Jen Murphy
Taking my daughter to Driver’s Ed was fun. It was exciting to hear her discuss how driving practice was going, and to hear secondhand her instructor’s humorous stories about teaching teens the ways of the road. We would joke about how she would soon become a taxi service for her little brother’s soccer practices and run errands in my place. But then the fun ended and reality hit me: We had a licensed teen driver in the house.
It’s nearly impossible to describe the helplessness I felt as she pulled out of our driveway for the first time — without me. I wasn’t prepared. I knew she had completed all of her instruction and driving hours. I felt she was a cautious and a responsible person, and I was genuinely happy she was taking this step toward independence — yet I was filled with dread.
As a normally calm and logical person, I knew this was an illogical and emotional reaction. She was perfectly capable. And she was proud of her accomplishment. I was the one falling apart every time she took the car. I knew this was my problem to solve. I wasn’t really worrying for her – I was worrying for me! I was losing my little girl.
So I told myself: “Celebrate success. Don’t focus on the ‘what-ifs’.”
I realized I was so focused on what I was losing – her dependence – that I wasn’t celebrating this tremendous accomplishment. After all, didn’t I want to see her as an independent, confident, and capable woman? Of course! This was a step in the right direction. And shifting my perspective to focus on her gain rather than my loss was the best way to keep her going forward.
I started looking at her as a young adult with her own individuality, and feeling truly happy for her growth and the person she’s turning out to be. That’s not to say I don’t tell her to drive carefully every time she leaves with her car keys, and it’s not to say that I don’t ask her to tell me where she’s going and to check in when she arrives. We have rules, and she gladly follows them because the reward of independence is too sweet for her to risk losing it. And now it’s sweet for me as well.
Calm down and (let her) drive forward.
My daughter has been driving for more than 8 months now. And yes, she has been a taxi service for her little brother, and she has run many errands for me. It’s been a tremendous help, actually. There have been no serious incidents and she’s still fairly cautious, but she’s more confident. Her shoulders are back and her chin is up. She still smiles as she walks out the door. And now, the smile is on my face, too.
Jen Murphy is a working mom with two teenagers. She has more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk youth and is a former middle school teacher. She and her family love living in northern Michigan with their chickens, goats and bees.
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