I just handed my oldest the keys to the car and sent her out to the market. For a brief moment, she just stood there and looked at me as if uncertain what I meant. “Here’s the key,” I repeated. “Just drive.” I figure she’s had enough of me sitting in the passenger seat making her nervous. She now has her license and it’s time for me to let go. Ha! Do we parents ever really let go?
Okay. So she’s been gone over an hour. I’ve replayed the entire drive to and from back and forth in my mind several times. But no amount of my worry will amount to a hill of beans when it comes to, ‘the other guy.’ If I add up all of the worrying I’ve done about everything over the last 40 years, it is quite clear that I have wasted months, maybe years, of precious time. They should have been spent laughing, creating and exploring instead.
The really good decisions I’ve made in my life were mostly done on the spot out of a sense of responsibility, joy or love; like the day we moved Granny in with us.* We didn’t work out a budget or decide how much time we would have to devote to her. We just moved her in, Alzheimer’s and all. In hindsight, it’s better that we didn’t know we’d have to add Depends to the shopping list, or that just bathing her might take an entire hour. Love far outweighs anything on a balance sheet or a shopping list.
And it was love that propelled me to send my daughter off an hour ago. She will never spread her wings if I keep her tethered and I want her to fly. She needs to feel that sense of full accountability when she is behind the wheel, to know there is nothing between her and the other guy but her own good judgment. As a driver, she will have to make many ‘on the spot’ decisions. If they’re done with responsibility, love and joy she will be okay.
Oops. Gotta run. I hear the garage door opening. My bird is returning to the nest; the same one I used to buckle into her pink, fluffy, car seat with her stuffed elephant. My heart leaps with both joy and gratitude. (*From, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson. http://www.helen-hudson.com).
P. S. An hour after I posted this blog, I discovered that Wisconsin has launched a, “Just Drive,” campaign for teens. It comes with its own yellow road sign and points out that while teens only account for 7% of all drivers, they cause 14% of all accidents. How comforting.