Last week was a rite of passage in our house. Adam got his drivers license! Our former Rabbi at Beth Am used to call this the “Car Mitzvah” acknowledging that this milestone is probably as important to the teenager (and parents) as the “Bar Mitzvah”. Joking aside, given the nature of our cd copying suburban lifestyle this milestone represents a significant change in the parent/child relationship. Much more independence for the teen and actually more independence (and worry) for the parent.
Adam has been awaiting this moment with excitement. He shows no ambivalence on the matter – he wants to drive himself rather than have mom or dad chauffeur. I, on the other hand, feel a bit more mixed – a little nervous, a little sad that I’ll miss out car chats but, oh my gosh – after being a chauffeur for 26 years…freedom! I still don’t think I’ve fully internalized this new status. Saturday night Steve and I were discussing our plans for the morning – my exercise class, his pickup basketball game – I was mentally girding for the “who drives to Sunday school” argument. I started to explain why I thought Steve should drive that day and he laughed – Adam would drive himself – hooray!
As with many transitions this one is bittersweet. I like being needed by my children (I guess if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have had 4 of them). Car time is a great time to chat – some of the time is mundane but some of the time it is serious and significant. Maybe the fact that mom is looking at the road (so no eye contact) and that the ride/conversation has a known end time makes it easier to bring up sensitive topics. But not all of the driving time is so “meaningful” – like the time last month when I needed to leave work early to drive 20 minutes to school, pick him up, spend 5 minutes of driving him to guitar, spend the next hour on a conference call in the guitar lesson parking lot and then go home. Drives like this are necessary but the parenting ROI is not very high.
So now is my opportunity to make the most of this transition – to enjoy the logistical freedom but pay attention in the day-to-day to have quality non-driving time.