My youngest child just got her driver’s license. I know it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this time it was — for me. My daughter was just a couple of weeks past her sixteenth birthday and she was sure that if it didn’t happen now, it would never happen… I wasn’t in quite the same hurry for her to get behind the wheel. As far as I’m concerned, she could have waited a year, or two! With my older kids my worry always had to do with age, I felt that 16 was too young to start driving. 18 is the driving age in Sweden where I grew up and that seems about right to me. However, with my youngest my concern was something else entirely. This time around, the driver’s license milestone marked the end of an era. A 20-year plus era.
For the past 20 years, I have driven kids back and forth to school, to practice, to friends’ houses, I have picked up loads full of kids for carpool and have crisscrossed town more times than I care to admit. I have gotten up before dawn to drive to some faraway sports tournament and waited long hours to drive back late at night. And now, without doubt, life as I’ve known it for the past 20 years has changed. I’m not sure I was ready for it to happen so soon.
As most parents know, the car is one of those places where conversations happen, or where you get to be a fly on the wall while the kids and their friends chat, sing and gossip. At its best, being “the chauffeur” gives you an opportunity to connect and discover. I will miss that. And then there’s the fact that I’m not needed in the same way anymore. No more late evening requests to go get frozen yogurt, no need to thwart last-minute plans, made by my daughter and her friends, involving me and my car. I will have more time on my hands for sure, but also less time to be a part of my daughter’s life.
It’s not like any of this is a surprise — this day has been on the horizon for the better part of the past year, my daughter being adamant that she is going to get her license as soon as she can. I was forewarned and yet, somehow I failed to consider what the real impact on my daily life would be. I failed to realize that this change would have a lasting effect on life as I know it. I certainly hadn’t thought it was something I was going to mourn. Yet, here I am, doing just that.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic because of course, life changes all the time — sometimes in small ways and other times more profoundly. I know I have been here before, many times. I had a similar experience when we first moved abroad. I had several months to prepare, research and envision what life in a foreign country would be like and still, I don’t think I had really considered, or been able to imagine, to what degree it would impact my daily life. How would it feel to not have a job, knowing that I had given up one I really liked? How would I cope in a place where I knew no one and had no family to lean on? I was forewarned, but once I was in place I felt unprepared and overwhelmed. All I knew was that life was vastly different from what I had envisioned when imagining it back home.
And maybe that’s the way it works for most people. I mean how can you really prepare yourself for this kind of change? You can think about it, read about it and talk to others about it. But knowing how you’ll feel when the moment is upon you is different. I know I will find a new “everyday”, it just might take a little bit of time, and I think that’s ok. In the meantime, maybe I’ll ask my daughter to go pick me up some ice cream…
By: Felicia Shermis