Take the Wheel

There are moments in my life that have caused me to pause and wonder, “WTF”.

The first time it happened, I recall it was my 16th birthday. I had gotten my driver’s license after realizing how unlucky I was.  The state I lived had mandatory driver’s education for everyone the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school.  From 7 am -11 am, we had classes in the high school auditorium – 4 days a week.  Then we had drive times – twice a week – for several hours each time.  We had tests – both driving and written; and when we were done, we got a piece of paper that basically said, “give this person their license.”  Except….ah that fucking “except” was what got me…..except if they thought you should drive just because the driving was rocky during the class.  But you could also get a “drive” stipulation if you were one of the randomly chosen students.  They had to choose 10 each year.  In my state, they had another way that people could have to drive: if you happened to show up on a drive day and/or had a birthday on a drive day.  They picked 2 days each month (randomly) where EVERYONE had to drive if you were born on that day or showed up that day.  When I arrived to the DMV on my 16th birthday, I found out that I had A) been randomly selected to drive out of my driver’s ed class, B) was born on a state decided drive day, and C) showed up on a state-mandated drive day.

In other words, I was going to be driving for an examiner.

I passed with my only issues being related to the fact that traffic wasn’t cooperating with my driving instructor’s instructions.  Score! I got my license.  After I became official, we drove to the National Guard Armory where my dad was (because my birthday was ALWAYS a drill weekend) and showed him my license.  Then we went home.  He got home about 5 hours later, tossed me the keys, and sent me on an errand.

Sitting in the car, alone, realizing it was just me and the car and no supervision, I had a moment of “holy hell? Am I old enough for this??”

Then my brother jumped into the car and was like, “awesome! let’s go!”  Yeah, my realization was short lived.

There were other times like that too.  Sitting in the u-haul after college realizing that I was leaving Iowa to likely never come back.

Giving birth to DJ and being pushed in a wheelchair to the car, I got in with this baby feeling like they had made a mistake letting me – a kid – go home with a child and without a real adult.

And today? I showed up to get DJ from her outdoor program and surprised her with a car.

HER car.

In that moment as I was in the backseat and she was in the driver’s seat, I wondered the same thing I did many MANY years before: where is the real adult? I’m too young to do this.

And DJ revealed to me the realization she had: how can I be old enough to be trusted to drive this car??

But honestly? She could.

On the way home, she drove.

And as we went down this street, a street all of us know is too narrow to be a one-way with two lanes and parking on each side, I stopped before I sounded like my father in saying “JESUS! Are you sure you’re close enough to the parked cars!??!”

Apple, meet tree.

That is the realization that stopped me.

The other thing that stopped me? Seeing how fucking confident she was behind the wheel.  How happy she was – fuck, she was grinning like a crazy person who doesn’t know better. We kept her off the really busy roads – the ones that have a speed limit of 45 but where everyone drives at least 55.  But honestly? She could have done it.  I was impressed as we approached an area that she and I would drive together many many times the past several years.  G was giving her directions, and she interrupted him saying, “Oh, I know the way home”.

I grinned.

Then wondered how the fuck I had a kid who was about to turn 17 and who next year would leave me for college.

I’ve been listening to the audiobook for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.  A book I thought was going to be filled with essays and found it was filled with essays while the book was labeled “self-help”.  Yeah, I didn’t expect it to be “self-help”.  Anyway, he talks about how sometimes people mistake their guiding principals in life for a label they carry meaning they wrap themselves in the label and forget about the broader guiding values set that is underneath.  As a result, they find themselves at the end of the road with the label – they struggle – they have crisis  – they feel pain.  And it is all because they hitched their wagon to something that was finite.

I love being “Moe” to my girls.  But I fucking LOVE them growing up – exploring – stretching their wings.  And while I know this car is freedom to leave me and home and expand her boundaries even further than I would really like, I love watching it all unfold.  I want her to be comfortable. I want her to know her power. I want her to trust herself.

I want her behind the wheel of her car….and life — and I want her to fucking drive and have an adventure and push the limits and thrive.

I still don’t feel old enough for this.

Part of me hates the fact my kid who rolled over at 2 months old, crawled at 4 months, walked at 8 months, and ran at 1 year old is off pushing it further.  But damn. I love she is embracing her journey.

I love I get to watch.

Even if I no longer steer.

What do you think?

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