Somehow, I had been inching my way through life without becoming my mother, but on the day my daughter got her driver’s permit, Julie L. flooded right in. Suddenly, I was back in that impossibly yellow, 1980’s Oldsmobile Cutlas, only I was the one white knuckling the door handle, pushing an imaginary brake and screaming in a voice so chortled, and in an octave so high, that glass must have shattered in the windows of cars as they passed by. Just like my mother had done.
I’ve never been a calm parent. When I call home and my daughter doesn’t answer the phone, instead of thinking: a) she’s a teenager and she’s doing homework, b) she’s a teenager and she’s sound asleep, or c) she’s a teenager and she’s (ignoring me, hating me, being a teenager, fill-in-the-blank), I immediately envision that she’s a) fallen and hit her head, b) been abducted or c) fallen, hit her head, and been abducted.
From the moment our children are born we spend our days trying to protect them. We’d wrap them in bubble wrap if we could. Fighting their battles with four-year-olds who are mean to them on the playground, fighting to get them into the best schools, fighting to keep them happy.
But sitting in the passenger seat of our car as my daughter accelerated into traffic, the reality hit me: no matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I pressed that imaginary break, I really had no control.
I looked back and remembered how embarrassed I felt when my mom sat that close to me on the bench seat of our Cutlas, and I suddenly understood. She wanted to protect me too.
Maybe the best we can do is prepare our kids for the world, hope they’ll make smart choices, buy them a warm enough coat, then open the door and let them walk through it.
Then say a little prayer of thanks for the refill of Xanax.