Recently I have been having a strange encounter at the carpool line at my daughter’s high school. It all began a couple weeks ago, around the time the winter weather began to clear, and is now a daily occurrence on the weeks I drive the after school “bus” home to our side of town. I can’t seem to shake myself of this situation, so I am learning to live with it and it is learning to live with me.
One afternoon in early February I sat there minding my own business, reading my book and listening to my eight-year-old chatter away to our dog. Suddenly I sensed someone at my side window. I turned my head to see a small girl, her short blonde hair sticking up in a mass of cowlicks. On her feet were rubber boots painted to mimic duck heads. Though she was clearly much too young to be a high school student she wore the school’s uniform, the sleeves of her blue sweater flopping around her arms, which she was waving madly at me as she jumped up and down. An impish grin on her face, she seemed to be saying something to me. I rolled down the window and was aghast to hear her chirping away, “Can I drive? Huh, can I drive? Please!”
As my middle-aged brain began to piece things together I had the sudden realization that this child looked an awful lot like my eldest had when she was five years old, minus the school uniform. In fact, it was my eldest. And she wanted to drive home!But in my mind’s eye she was too small to steer, too dippy to drive, to everything to do anything involving a motorized vehicle. I mean come on. What do they think they are doing giving out driver’s permits to kids who are not much older than five?!
But something inside me whispered “trust” so I reached inside myself, donned my coat of courage and relinquished my command post to her. After much adjusting of mirrors and seat (an aid to my anxieties) we eased away from the curb. As we made our way home, she kissed a few curbs, took up a bit more of the road that allotted by law, and cut through a parking lot to avoid a dangerous intersection. I, for my part, reflexively slammed on my imaginary brake and gripped the door handle. But we made it, all the way into the snug garage, without a scratch (not counting the sides of the tires).
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And we have made it every day since, my “five-year-old” in the driver’s seat and me her passenger. Each day has been a little better. I have not pressed my foot to the floorboard, nor white-knuckled my door in over a week, not counting last Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We don’t cut through any parking lots anymore. We have driven in rain (well sprinkles), in snow (if you count flurries), in the dark even.
And each ride has been a gift. A gift of maturity, my sweet daughter growing into adulthood before my eyes, her cow licked hair giving way to neat flaxen waves, her duck boots to colorful flats. A gift of confidence, as I see her come into her own on this one, and watch her shoulders relax, her take one hand off the wheel (watch it!) as she turns a corner, her more and more often chatter away about her day. A gift of reassurance , as I realize that she can master things very well and, God willing, be absolutely fine out there in the real world. And most importantly, a gift of trust to my teen, who I worry may think I don’t trust her at all, with anything, when I really, truly do.