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From Hot Wheels to Four Wheels: Growing Up Is Tough (On Mom)

I just dropped off my oldest teenager at his first driver’s education class. I am sitting in my Traverse writing this on the back of an information sheet I picked up at the driving school. I know most of you reading this have babies or toddlers, maybe even school-age kids, and driver’s ed is the furthest thing from your mind. Trust me. It sneaks up on you faster than you can imagine.

After a mad dash of gathering all of the information they needed, filling out all of the paperwork and handing over a check, it became official. I have a son who is now old enough and mature enough to learn how to drive a car. It seems like yesterday he was crashing his Hot Wheels into my feet as we watched cartoons together.

When the time came for me to leave I stood and looked hesitantly at my more-than-confident son.

“So, what happens now?” I asked him. “Do I just leave until they call you back for class?”

He gave me that teenage look that combines both “Mom, you’re such a dork” with “But I love you anyway” and told me it was okay to leave.

I hesitated. I headed towards the door and looked back. He gave me a knowing smile and I walked out.

I felt like there should be more. More pomp and circumstance. More celebration. More something. I felt like he was taking his first steps all over again and I did not have a camera to capture this huge moment in our lives. Except in this case his steps were further away and involved a much bigger form of transportation than unsteady feet and a diapered bottom. I did have a camera phone but I certainly knew better than to take his picture in a room filled with his school classmates.

There is a sense of aching and pride that battles within me. Where is my baby boy of yesteryear? Who is this grown-up man-child that I am leaving behind? Yet, my heart was so filled with pride knowing what a huge step this is for him. Honestly, it is a rather huge step for me as well. My baby is old enough to drive and I have to let go and let him learn how to take these steps on his own.

When I left him for his first day of kindergarten thoughts raced through my head about whether his teacher was capable enough, nice enough and if my son would okay with someone else at the wheel of his education. I feel that way now only it is someone else literally at the wheel teaching him and the stakes seem so much higher. Are they capable enough, nice enough and will my son be okay with someone else teaching him something so important? The ages and stages may change but the questions remain.

These moments come up so quickly: First steps, first days of school, first time learning to drive a car. I know I will blink and he will be off on his own heading to college. It just happens so fast!

There is a part of me that longs to grab him back up and go play with his Hot Wheels and listen to him narrate his day to me. Those days are fading. Hot Wheels have been replaced with a real car. Narrating his day to me has been reduced to a few sentences about what is happening in his life.

I know it is time to drive away now. It is time to leave and wait for him to call me to pick him up, but I hesitate. Driving away makes it official. With tears of pride and longing filling my eyes, I refuse to let them fall. This is a day all teenagers look forward to for years. I just never knew how hard it was for the moms left in the parking lot.

My baby is not a baby. He is growing up. And? I couldn’t be more proud of him. Or of myself for letting go a little bit every day so he can become the man he is meant to be.

Now, if only I can get him to understand that a driver’s license does not come with a car, I will be all set.

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