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Parenting Fears: Driving Test Day

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It’s already four o’clock and I haven’t eaten lunch. This isn’t normal for me.

I pause and think about it and realize that my stomach is in knots. No wonder I haven’t eaten. There is an ache in my stomach making me feel ill, but I am fairly certain that I am not sick. It’s not that kind of ache.

It is the sort of ache I get when I am stressed, so I start to think about it.

Am I stressed? 

I can’t think of any particular stressor at the moment. Typically the root causes of this type of ache are the kids’ schedules, work, or homeschooling. But as I mentally think through my list, I can’t identify any deadlines or projects that are weighing on my mind.

I start to think about my schedule for the next day and the knot in my stomach tightens. This time, I feel seriously ill.

Then it hits me. I am avoiding any thoughts about one particular event on the calendar tomorrow.

My oldest child is taking her driver’s test.

And despite my brain’s refusal to think about it, my stomach is in knots.

I’m definitely feeling stressed about tomorrow. I mean. There are obvious reasons, but I realize that I am actually feeling nervous for her.

What if she doesn’t pass?

I know it won’t be the end of the world, but I am clearly carrying the weight of her anticipation, nerves, and stress. The thought of her failing the test makes me feel sick for her.

But I don’t tell her this because I am only expressing verbal confidence that she will do great.

On the other hand, I realize that I am also terrified that she will pass. 

It is becoming very real to me that by the end of the next day, my baby could potentially get in a vehicle and drive away from home without me.

by herself.

in a car.

or, even scarier…

in a car with all three of her siblings. 

As I let these thoughts sink in, the depths of my terror reach a whole new level. This is a parenting milestone like non other so far. And I am terrified.

But her driver’s test will happen tomorrow whether I am ready or not, because she is ready.

I try to remind my innermost parenting self that she is ready.

She has been a calm, confident driver from the beginning. 

She navigated across the state of Nebraska, through downtown Lincoln, in our huge van. 

She drives all around town regularly with me only paying half attention these days. 

And most notablly, I remind myself, she successfully navigated the parking lot of Crabtree Valley Mall. On a Saturday. 

(The traffic parking lot of our downtown mall is no joke on the weekend.)

It’s gonna be ok. It’s gonna be okay.

I repeat these reminders to myself all day.

Let’s face it. She is ready. I am terrified.

I am pretty sure this is how the driving milestone happens: Ready teens. Terrified moms.

It’s time to accept my place among the many parents who have gone before me.

And despite my fears, I focus on the excitement of the moment. After all, it is an exciting moment.

The excitement of my own driving milestone is accessible in my brain even twenty-five years later. I distinctly remember the relief I felt when I passed my own driver’s test and the thrill of my first drive alone that night.

I imagine that tomorrow’s events will be the same for her. Tomorrow will hold moments that she’ll remember for a very long time.

And tomorrow I will officially join the ranks of terrified moms of teenage drivers.

I can’t wait.

UPDATE (the next day):

She passed!


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  1. I remember those feelings. I can tell you that I was much more relaxed and blase about the whole thing by the time it was my fourth child. Here everyone has to sit three tests. The first is just theory and gets them the equivalent of the learners permit. The second is a practical test and gets them a restricted licence. They can drive unsupervised but effectively no passengers (a few exceptions like if they already have kids of their own they can take them) since distractions caused by passengers was a high cause of accidents involving new drivers and not between 10pm and 6am. After 18 months (or 12 months if they take a particular course designed to teach good driving habits) they take another practical test and can then drive with no restrictions.

    1. Sounds similar to here. My daughter has her time restriction removed in 6 months. Then her full provisional removed 6 months after that. I am glad to hear it gets easier with each kid!

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