My daughter is 17. Practically a Straight-A Student. Senior in high school. Tall, slender, beautiful, natural blond. You hate her already, dontcha?
And for the past 8 months, she’s had her Driver’s Permit. She’s driven side roads, main roads, and freeways… just not in my car. Just not with me.
Her grandparents take her out driving once or twice a week. Her very first behind-the-wheel excursion was taking Grandpa’s truck through the dry river bed. Talk about fun! She’s been hooked on the beauty of trucks ever since.
They tell me she’s a good driver. They tell me she knows all the safety concerns with seatbelts and mirrors and slowing down for emergency vehicles. They tell me she does really, really good. They tell me.
But I’m, well, me. And I’m not a big proponent of inexperienced people driving my car. I guess I was just hoping for the day I would wake up and she’d be a driver. I didn’t think there would be this in-between time. I didn’t think while she’s behind the wheel she’d still be learning how to be behind the wheel.
Now, there’s a reason that years ago my doctor recommended I stick to decaf… yah. I’m not a big winner on the whole “keep it calm” game. But, she is my daughter. And I love her. And someday I’m gonna want her to run to the store for a gallon of milk or ice cream or something… so I figure she should actually be able to drive.
As anxious as I can be at times, my daughter is the complete opposite. She is controlled. Cool. Clear-headed. She would never say the kind of words that accidentally slip out of my mouth when brake lights appear out of nowhere or someone cuts her off. She is so not like me.
But every time she’s asked to be behind the wheel, I wince. It’s not an unreasonable request. But I see potential for disaster. Not of her making, of course. And since it’s my job as her parent to always, always, ALWAYS protect her, the answer is simple: “Not today.”
The reasons are as varied as there are words in the English language: I’m too tired to pay attention. I have a headache. You overslept and we’re in a hurry. I overslept and we’re in a hurry. I’ve had too much coffee this morning and my heart can’t take it.
No. You can not drive my car. Not now. Maybe later.
I’m doing better with the “later” thing. Last week I let her drive almost a mile from school to the Post Office. I had to explain to her that Main Street was out of the question. I’m sure she’s a good driver. But my car can’t take it. If my car is going to fail, I’d rather it be with me behind the wheel so she doesn’t get scarred for life.
I’m only thinking of you, Dot…
But today came the day I’d been promising her for months. I backed the car out of the garage then asked if she wanted to drive to school. Her eyes almost got wide with excitement, and then she contained herself. Sure, she nodded with a smile. A nice, composed, in-control smile. And we traded seats.
Her CD was still playing. Usually I tell her to turn it off so it doesn’t distract her, but she told me it helped her feel better. So I let her listen. And drive.
Out the driveway. Don’t back up so far, you’re practically in the neighbor’s yard. Up to the corner. Now, remember: just because we don’t have a Stop Sign doesn’t mean you can zoom into the turn. Down to the crossroad, up a turn, make a left, past the school. Children! Children! And finally, on to Main Street.
And while I was full of advice, my voice was calm. I never clenched my fists. My feet didn’t reach for an imaginary brake pedal on my side. My heart never missed a beat. She did great! Even when a red truck swerved and decided to suddenly stop, on Main Street, right in front of her.
She. Did. Great.
She was able to carry on a complete conversation, which is more than I can say about myself. [Want me to say “yes” without paying attention? Talk to me while I’m driving.]
We talked about my writing, and the characters from my book series. She was amazingly attentive. She did all the right things to take the focus off her driving and just be in the car. She kept it as real as a regular trip. The music. The chatter. She never rocked out. Never got loud. Never changed lanes without looking. Slowed ahead of time. Never raced the engine. She acted as if she’d been driving for quite a while. She. Was. Confident. If she was in Psychology 101, I’d tell her teacher to give her an “A”.
And when we got to school, I got out to take over and she called out, “Wait!”
Before I could get into the car, she ran over and gave me a hug.”I love you, Momma,” she smiled.
And I knew. She may be growing up. But she’ll still always be My Little Girl.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!