Handing Over the Keys

Teaching my daughter to drive is not how I thought it would be. Initially, I was so excited that she reached this milestone. I’ve always been a strong proponent of her gaining new life skills like cooking a meal or taking more responsibilities around the house. And I thought I would be the best parent to show her the ropes, but ever since she received her permit I’ve learned otherwise.

My husband is a much better teacher than I am. He has taken her on the turnpike, the highway and in the city. He has her driving in the rain and at night. He hands over the keys with much less trepidation than I do.

For me, it has absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with me and my ever persistent anxiety. She is an excellent and careful driver. I know this. Even the driving instructor that we hired from the local professional driving school said she is a natural. This briefly reassured me but then I decided, he didn’t give birth to her. So his opinion, while valued, is irrelevant.

My head tells me she knows the mechanics of driving a car and the rules of the road, but my heart keeps attacking me with a terrible case of the what ifs. What if a deer comes out of nowhere or a child chases a ball into the street? She doesn’t have the experience yet to expect the unexpected.

And then my anxiety goes into overdrive. Like it did the other night.

“What do you mean I can’t drive?” she said. It was a perfect fall evening and we had a short and very familiar distance to go.I had no good reason except that local weatherman Bill Henley said it might rain. Apparently, I put a lot of trust in Bill.

Exasperated (and rightfully so), she took her place in the passenger seat, slammed the car door, scrunched into a tight ball, iPhone firmly in hand and that incredulous teenager look on her face.

“I just want to drive somewhere and not have to worry about you getting us there.” I told her. Which by the way is the wrong thing to say when you are trying to raise a confident driver.

“This is ridiculous. You know I need 20 more hours before I can take my test. How am I going to get them, huh?”

I stayed silent letting the latest Taylor Swift song coming from the radio fill the void.

“Are you even listening to me?” she asked not willing to be ignored.

“Do I have a choice?” I sighed.

At this point, I briefly considered pulling over and switching places, but I couldn’t let her drive mad. Could I? No. My father always said never drive angry.

Meanwhile, she was furiously texting what I can only imagine to be something like “My mom is being a total bitch. It’s so unfair.”

In a quieter and slightly calmer voice she asked, “Will you let me drive home?”

“In the dark?!” I replied instinctively, not really meaning to say that out loud.

Clearly, that was the wrong response.

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