It’s been three years since my son drove solo for the first time, and I well remember my fear the first few times he ventured out. When I sent him to buy bananas at the corner store I fluttered anxiously around the house like a trapped bird. It felt like he was gone an excruciatingly long time – longer than a quick banana purchase required – and all kinds of horrific accident scenarios flew through my head. I reached for the phone to call him, but couldn’t do it. What if my call distracted him? I couldn’t take the chance.
I thought it would be easier releasing kids number two and three onto the road, but here we are again with the same fears percolating. My twin teens have six months of training behind them, have passed the driving test and have all of their official documents in hand. The only thing standing between them and the open road is me.
Before we began the process, I made them swear up and down that no matter when they received their license, they would not drive independently until I agreed they were 100 per cent ready. And although I’ve seen a mix of responsible driving, and some scary new-driver errors, I’m still not ready to release them from that promise.
It’s that old conundrum that frightens me to bits: driving expertise only comes with experience. But the process of obtaining that experience is fraught with danger and the potential for accidents with horrific consequences. The “what if’s?” can be paralyzing, and there are just so many of them.
As they champ at the bit for independence, I try to explain my hesitation. “You are the most precious people in my life,” I say. “I cannot take any chances when it comes to your safety. So I need assurance you can react quickly under pressure behind the wheel and make responsible decisions.
“Any monkey can press the brake and accelerator, but those unexpected scenarios you’ll encounter as new drivers and how you respond to them can be the difference between life and death.”
My kids are rolling their eyeballs. They’ve heard this speech before and are full of exaggerated confidence in their own abilities. “Relax, mom, I’ve got this,” the first twin told me, minutes before running a red light at a busy intersection last Saturday. I’d barely recovered from shock before I began a sharp attack of her poor decision-making. “She’s just not ready,” I told myself. “We need more time.”
As drivers, we’ve all experienced near-collisions behind the wheel. We’ve seen other drivers make careless decisions, drive too fast or react too slowly. Heck, we’ve done these things ourselves. The lucky among us have managed to avoid collisions, have left the scene of an almost-accident with accelerated heart rates and sweaty palms thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We don’t have to look far to find stories of others that were less fortunate in similar scenarios. Young drivers paralyzed for life; teens out for a quick drive that ended with life-changing consequences. Impromptu memorials are scattered all over the roads and highways, tributes of love to people who never made it home, be it through their own error or mistakes made by others. Lives changed irrevocably in an instant, with no possibility of a second chance.
So I’m biding my time and quieting my doubts by insisting my twins practice their driving more. Though independence day looms for my girls, as a Jewish mother I’ll never be ready for it. I’m beginning to understand that parenting and fear go hand in hand. When you love your kids this fiercely, you never stop worrying for their safety.