My kids recently got their drivers licenses. They completed over a year of preparation that included 30 hours of class time, six hours of professional driving lessons and over 50 hours of practice time behind the wheel — each!
After all of that, you’d think I’d be prepared for the moment they drove alone for the first time. But I wasn’t. Not by a long shot. I am still pretty nervous every time I watch my kids back out of our driveway, headed out on their own. I expect that with time I will be less anxious about them driving solo and, eventually, it will become commonplace for me to see them drive away.
I suppose it will be similar to my kids’ other major milestones that I struggled through, adapted to, and eventually learned from.
My lessons in letting go actually started when my children were infants. As you may have noted in my previous columns, I pride myself on knowing how to prepare for most things. I’m the queen of doing my research and making my lists. So, it won’t surprise you that I did an exorbitant amount reading, research and preparation when I was expecting, especially after we found out that we were having twins.
After the babies were born, I was happy that I had done all of those things to prepare, because it helped to have some guidance when navigating our new baby-centered life. One thing I was not prepared for and that I have yet to get used to is the fact that nothing ever stays the same when raising children. That’s the truly maddening part of being a parent — constant change!
I think one of the very best pieces of parenting advice I’ve received is this: If everything is going terribly and you feel absolutely lost, don’t worry, things will change. If everything is going wonderfully and you feel like you finally have it all figured out, don’t worry, things will change.
I have discovered that my initial reaction to change is to feel fear. When the kids were infants and we moved them from our room to their nursery, I was afraid that I would miss their cries or that my daughter would (heaven forbid) lose her pacifier. I soon realized that the baby monitors picked up every peep and that my daughter was quite resourceful when it came to finding her pacifier.
Other changes brought other worries.
Advancing to crawling and then then walking made me worry that our home was not as baby-proof as I hoped. Moving to solid foods brought concerns over choking and allergic reactions. Of course, I would ultimately come to realize that our home was a safe place and the meals we served provided the needed nourishment that our kids could safely eat and enjoy.
As the years passed and the kids grew and evolved, I found that my reasons to fret followed suit. As our family navigated our way through school drop offs, playdate invites, finding new friends, and losing old toys, I discovered something profound. I realized that me worrying about things did not make things better; it was, in fact, quite the opposite. I also figured out that my kids are smart and resilient and, with occasional guidance from their parents, could find their way through most childhood issues.
I am sure that there are parents out there who, after making such a discovery, would no longer waste their time on such useless emotions as fear and worry. Unfortunately, I’m not that type of parent. I’m the type that needs to re-learn this vital lesson over and over. Throughout the kids’ years in elementary, middle school and now high school, I’ve frequently struggled with a tug-of-war between my head and my heart.
Logically, I understand that I have very smart, capable children and we live in a world with far more to offer than to fear. However, there are still those stubborn, “what ifs” that not only live, but thrive in my tired mom brain.
After years of fighting those moments of worry when facing my kids’ latest rites of passage, I’ve come to understand something that has helped me immensely. I’ve realized that they are just moments and don’t require or deserve more time than that. I also figured out that the feelings will pass much quicker if I stop fighting them, acknowledge them, find my peace and move on.
Finding my peace can mean taking a deep breath, going for a walk, saying a prayer — whatever works. My kids just reached an important life milestone and I’m incredibly proud of them. I’m also proud of myself for surviving these unnerving times with only a few extra gray hairs. Special shout out to my very patient husband who took on the role of primary driving instructor for the kids and on-call calming coach for me.
I know this isn’t the last time that my family will face the start or end of a life’s chapter — we’ve got the end of high school and the beginning of college right around the corner. Luckily, I’ve got a lifetime of lessons to help me enjoy every memorable first and last.