Here I am, I blinked, and I am navigating the roads a second time with a new teenage driver. Vastly different, yet in some ways very much the same.
A couple of things that have struck me as I have begun this process again. Shannon was terrified about driving, I mean, she would start to cry when a car came towards her from the other direction – for weeks. We practically had to smother ourselves to not burst out laughing and be empathetic yet firm in saying: Don’t worry so much, the road is wide enough for both cars. [Insert face into sleeve and muffle gasping laughs.] She did eventually get over this.
Joseph is NOT terrified. In fact, he wants to drive, and asks to get behind the wheel whenever there is an opportunity. He backs down the driveway like he’s done it a hundred times. I am not even nervous getting in the car with him. I wondered if this was because I had been through it already and was like, yeah, so what if he hits the mailbox….we can get a new one…or if it was just because I am just numb to nerves at this point? Either way, vastly different driver.
BUT yet – the SAME in that he goes so far to the edge of the right side of the road that I instinctively lean to the left. I call this the “mailbox lean”. As in, in my mind think that if I lean to the left *inside the car*, the *outside* of the car somehow won’t hit the mailboxes on the side of the road. I realize this is irrational, but absolutely cannot help the instinct. So, I’ll gently say, hey, how about you move over a little so we don’t end up in the ditch? And he responds exactly THE SAME way Shannon did: The road is so narrow! I’m not that far over mom, but WHY ARE THE ROADS SO NARROW HERE? [Insert face into sleeve and muffle laughter].
Shannon used to pull in a parking lot and look for the “pull through” spots so she wouldn’t have to back up. Joseph – SAME. I’m like, you do know, eventually you will have to actually back up out of a parking spot? Yeah yeah mom, I know.
Before Shannon drove, the car was a place where we always talked. For Joseph, he avoids talking and tends to put in his ear buds to listen to music and give me one word responses. Not so much conversation. BUT, when he got behind the wheel, no phone, no ear buds, just me. It was like an epiphany. I COULD TALK TO HIM IN THE CAR AND THERE WAS NOTHING HE COULD DO ABOUT IT! (Bonus: Because he is a good driver, I’m not even correcting him, gasping in horror, or admonishing him for not stopping soon enough at an intersection.) This leaves time for….more talking!
This evening, we drove to the grocery store. On the way home, the 70’s radio station started playing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.” He shook his head and said: My god, this song is 8 minutes long. What even. So we had a good chat about what the song was all about, that I didn’t really know why it had to be 8 minutes long, and that when I was young and heard it over and over again, I had no idea what “the Levee was dry” meant either. It was a whole. entire. conversation. When we pulled into our neighborhood, he said – My god, Mom, it’s STILL PLAYING. And we burst into laughter – real laughter.
Since I travel so much for work, and he isn’t amenable to texting or talking on the phone a whole bunch while I am away, much of our relationship lately has revolved around me telling him to do something, or asking why he didn’t do something, or yelling at him while he walks away from me. Which makes him not want to talk to me, and I can’t really blame him, but I also really need him to do things. Add to that that he is suddenly taller than me, his voice deepened over night, (or so it seemed to me) – and when he walks in the kitchen and says: “Hey mom” I almost spit out my coffee on a daily basis. Who the hell is this new person in my house? I am having some trouble navigating how quickly he is changing, and sometimes I just want my little sweet boy back, but then I see him behind the wheel, confident, growing up, and sometimes just like his sister. Only totally different.
So here we go around the block (literally) the second time – this motherhood thing doesn’t get easier, I’m just navigating the road, leaning to the left, one mailbox at a time.