At ground level

A column about LIFE

As my daughter turns 16, is it time to let go? – Part 2

There is an episode on the television show “Parenthood” that’s endearing to me. It’s the episode where Haddie begs Adam, her dad, to take her practice driving. He’s surprised, because he thought mom Cristina had been doing just that the last few weeks. Well, it turns out Cristina and Haddie had just been sitting in the car the whole time, while Cristina lectured. Cristina hadn’t allowed Haddie to get behind the wheel. When Adam confronts Cristina and asks why, she repeatedly replies, “She’s not ready yet.”

I can relate so well to this episode. You see, I’ve used every excuse possible to postpone this chapter. My daughter will turn 16 in August and, for the past months, I have been stalling. I told her she couldn’t even think of learning to drive until her grades improved. When they did, I said I was too busy to even consider it.

Finally, I could no longer postpone the inevitable. I got her the DMV handbook, so she could study. She took the online course, passed, and a couple of days later, her certificate arrived in the mail. On Wednesday, we went to the DMV office. She passed the vision exam, then took her permit test and passed. Tomorrow, the instructor is coming over for her first behind-the-wheel lesson.

Where have the years gone? It seems like yesterday, when I wrote that column about the time I dreaded buying my oldest daughter her first car. She is now 27 years old, married, and just bought her very first brand new car. Three years later, my son followed in her footsteps. Now, it’s their sister’s turn. She is the last, the youngest of my three children. My baby!

C’mon, she was just riding her push and ride racer and that Little Tikes Cozy Coupe not too long ago. It’s not fair that the years have gone by so quickly!

The other reason I’m dreading this is I never taught my children how to drive. In Iowa, the schools still have driver’s education as part of the high school curriculum. On weekends, their father taught them, so I was saved from the torment. When I finally rode with them behind the wheel, they were experienced drivers, and yes, like many mothers, I loved sending them to the store for milk and other items. We didn’t just skate through those times, though. They had their own share of fender benders, but thankfully, no major accident.

I’m having a harder time letting go of this one. She is my baby. We now live in the Bay Area and it can be dangerous driving here. Also, I am now a single parent and feel solely responsible for her safety.

When she visits her father in Iowa this summer, he promised he would teach her, too. But that’s in Iowa. There are fewer cars in Iowa. There are no pedestrians in Iowa. Merging on the freeway in Iowa is not the nightmare that it can be here, in the Bay Area.

When I spoke to the driving instructor last night, I asked him why is it that the California DMV only requires six hours of professional driver training. She needs more hours, I told him. If I had my way (and more money), I would pay for a year’s worth of professional driver training. He pointed out that in addition to the six-hour driving course, she is supposed to have 50 hours of behind-the-wheel experience with an adult, like a family member.

“A family member? You mean, me? … I just can’t!” I shrieked.

The instructor chuckled and said, “Let’s see how it goes on Saturday after I evaluate her.”

Thank goodness California law still requires her to have her permit for six months before she can take the driving test and get her driver license. And until she turns 18, she will have provisional restrictions.

The last of all the toys have been packed away for quite a while. This is my millennial child, who runs with earphones attached to her iPod and would rather text a friend than talk on the phone. I still cannot understand the music that blares from here iHome, and yes, like her siblings before her, she no longer calls me “Mommy.”  Like them, she, too, has grown up and is about to enter a milestone in her life.

I’d like to wail, “She’s not ready yet!!!”

Let’s see how tomorrow goes …

May 13, 2011 - Posted by | California, Children, Family, Iowa, Life, Parenting |

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