I turned on my cell phone the minute the plane landed. Instantly the message popped up. “HE PASSED!!!!” While my husband and daughter sent me a slew of emoticons to show how happy they were for Eli, me? Well, I burst out crying. Hysterically. Like from my toes. And not the “wow, I am so proud of you” kind of cry, (Don’t get me wrong, I really was), but the “OMG! I‘m not ready for him to drive” one.
Now, I knew my reaction was silly. We had been working up to this moment for months. And I didn’t have this reaction when my daughter passed. Quite the opposite actually. Thrilled to have another driver in the house, I did happy dances around my living room! I know all the dangers of teenage driving and even more so when they have ADHD. But that wasn’t really it.
To understand this is to peek into our morning routine. For as long as I can remember, I have been driving my son to school. (We have no bussing in our town.) And crazy as it may seem, I loved it. I never wanted to be in a carpool or rely on anyone else to drive if I didn’t have to.
When my husband and I had to choose who would drive Eli versus who would walk the dog, I knew I wanted my son.
Simply put, I loved our time together. Unlike some other kids, Eli is actually quite pleasant in the morning. And we had our ritual. Coffees in hand, Elvis Duran on the radio, we would listen, laugh, share stories and go over the events of the day. Although it was only a 10-minute drive, I craved the connection those minutes gave me. Whether he felt it or not, I was sending him off nourished and fed. A breakfast of champions you might say.
As the years have gone on those rides have become more important. Sometimes that was the most we spoke all day. We’re close but our nights are busy with me traveling or working and him doing homework, activities, or just having his bedroom door closed to get that privacy he craves (and deserves). We get our time and talks in when needed, but there is something sacred and special about our mornings. Without those drives, I would lose a part of him. Even harder, a part of us.
I know it’s time for me to put Eli in the driver’s seat. I will of course be a little anxious until I know he has safely reached his destination. But that is truly the push and pull of parenting; the fear (and all it represents) that comes with watching your child drive away, mixed with the pride in knowing that he is traveling on his own.
Leslie Josel is the Principal of Order Out of Chaos, a consulting firm specializing in student organizing. She is the author of several books including the recently published How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away. To learn more, visit www.orderoochaos.com