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Letting Go

Today marks the second time my son has driven a vehicle. Once yesterday with his father around an empty parking lot, and now today with me. Two parents with distinctly different driving styles trying to impart our wisdom on our eldest son.

Whose hand is that? That looks like a man’s hand. Not a seventeen year old boy’s. How did we get to this day so quickly? I remember holding him when he was a baby and thinking about this very day. I used to shoo that thought away. There is no more shooing.

I may want time to stop, but hands and feet wait for no one. They keep growing if you like it or not. On the bright side, they are just the right size for stepping on a brake. There’s that.

It’s funny how we each have completely different perspectives on this momentous event. He is thinking freedom, girls, adventure, girls, new life experiences, but still…. mostly girls.

I’m thinking oh my God this is my baby, distracted drivers, breakdowns, deer jumping out of the woods, rage filled drivers, drunk drivers, and girls. All very dangerous each in their own way.

I’m also thinking about him leaving. Like growing up and leaving. A thought that I haven’t really entertained much until recently. You see, this kid of mine- we’ve been butting heads a lot lately. I hear that’s normal. Teens and moms sometimes don’t mix.

But if I were to be totally honest, I have a hard time with the idea of him leaving and not coming back. I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it sort of sucks.

 We spend all of these years raising these little ducklings, and then we are supposed to let them fly? Part of me wants to clip his wings so he can’t. Wrap him up in bubble wrap so that he bounces his way through life.

However, in my heart I know he is supposed to have his freedom, his adventures, and even the dang girl. So, I have to let him go. No bubble wrap, my hand off the emergency break, with the hope that everything I taught him over the years will kick into gear.



  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure he’ll do fine… with driving and the girl Mom! You made me smile again reading this post and remembering teaching my children to drive and then watching them drive off to college. You captured the total gamut of emotions and it is normal to want to protect them and want to see them succeed all at the same time. I guess we just have to enjoy the ride and celebrate in their successes as the grow and move on in life. Good luck!!

  2. Oh yeah, I remember the terror of teaching my teenage son to drive. The terror was all mine, he was/is a fine driver. I was sure I was going to eat any number of my neighbors mailboxes along our narrow country roads.

    The flinching eventually subsided 🙂 he’s a good driver, yours will be too.

    This whole grow up and turn into men thing is tough. I am still adjusting, mine is in his second year in college. Won’t see him again until Thanksgiving now. It’s weird, you spend so many years waiting for them to grow up and then it happens and you are trying to adjust all over again.

    • Oh, good. The flinching is normal. Whew. I breathe a sigh of relief every time we pass a mailbox and leave it in tact. 😉

      I can’t imagine how you handle waiting until Thanksgiving. You are a strong woman.

  3. Joanne B says:

    Oh Melanie, You have taken the words right out of my mind!! My son is 16 and he wants to start driving lessons now. I feel the same as you- there goes my baby!! Why can’t we stop time!!

    • If you figure out a way to stop time, will you let me know? Seriously, it does go by quickly. But when you are in it, it doesn’t seem that way. Strange.

  4. My son is only 4 years old, so we aren’t at the same milestones, but I keep reminding myself it is my job to see him grow up and to be a good person, capable to handle whatever comes at him. I try not to get sad or nervous about these little milestones because its a child’s purpose to grow up! Much easier said, I know. My head knows, my heart, no so much. This year he will be going to pre-school, it will his first time to be away from me for any significant period of time and not be in the hands of someone I know and trust. I’m sure on the first day my heart will be in my throat.

    • Oooh, I remember that first day of school. That was hard. It took awhile to get used to that. By the fourth kid it was easier. Probably due to exhaustion, lol.

  5. What a bittersweet post! *sniff*
    I can totally relate to wanting to clip their wings, so they are forced to stay with Momma. My oldest is in her last year of middle school and my youngest starts 1st grade. I have never NOT had a baby with me during the day, and in less than 2 weeks, I will be on my own. *sniff, again*
    I can’t imagine what a hot mess I’ll be when they learn to drive….waaaaaa!!

    • Cograts Sonya! That is exciting for the both of you! I know it seems sad right now, but your world is about to open up. It’s pretty awesome! And yes, you’ll be a hot mess just like me when yours start to drive. Hopefully I’ll still be blogging at that point and you can cry on my shoulder. 🙂

  6. I can totally relate. I’ve got a 16, almost 17, year old son and one who is about to be 14. It feels like everything is moving too fast right now and I just want to pull the e-brake and make it slow down a bit, too.

    • Oh my. Three driving, one right after the other. Bless your heart. That is a lot to cope with. Sending you lots of positive thoughts. 🙂

  7. Nancy R. says:

    Just seeing the heading and a glimpse of the first pic I knew what was coming…but of course, I read anyway. My daughter will be 15 this year and is already talking about driving. And Mel, some of your words are my thoughts exactly. Wasn’t it yesterday she was learning to walk? The whole Sunrise, Sunset comes into play every day more and more as I watch my children grow and begin to experience this great big (and very scary) world. Guess it’s not scary in their eyes, but it sure is to mom and dad. Yes, we are supposed to raise and let go, but talk about fear (your previous post), this is definitely a fear. Love to you and your son as you both embark on another major step in life. I’m sure you did a great job instilling what he needs to know (driving and non-driving) and he will be fine because of that.

    • Thank you for that Nancy. We all do our best to teach our kids what’s right and wrong. At some point they have to be accountable for themselves. It’s just so hard to let go. I marvel at mama birds that can push their babies out of the nest. It’s a good thing I’m not a bird. The nest would collapse because I would never be able to kick a baby bird out.

  8. anonymus says:

    I can totally relate! I have a 21 y/o, 18 y/o, 16 y/o, and an 11 y/o….all sons!! I used to cry thinking of them growing up as the older 3 got to Jr High and all the milestones that happened after that, and then I thought wait a minute my mom wasn’t so much like that with her brood of 5. She loved us, but let us experience life and she was always there for us. We were all very close to her. She died in ’01 and we all cherish her still. I think it is healthy to cherish the time we have with our kids! It is never going to be like this ever again. They will move on into life and isn’t that what we really want. We didn’t want our parents to be all sappy with us. Then we get to have the grandkids! Love them and be close to them now…..like the girls they like because someday 1 of them will be your daughter-in-law and you will have a wonderful relationship with her and your son!
    Also, not to be preachy here, but the hard lesson I learned…don’t nag, just loving admonish him, he wants to be a man and give him that opportunity. I’m not talking about adult stuff here, ahem, but in manly jobs that he can do for you around the house. Guys need respect and if they have it from their momma, that is the kind of wife they will look for.
    Perspective has a lot to do with everything!
    Just trying to encourage! I love your blog!!!

    • Oh crap. Too late. I excel at nagging. I’ll have to work on that. I keep begging my son to pick a girl I’ll like. It will just make everything that much easier on all of us. 😉

      I came from a very small family, so it’s hard to relate with your experience. It sounds lovely though. Warm, supporting and filled with love. Sounds like you had a great role model.

      I am trying to encourage. And I will continue to do so. Also, you are right. Guys need respect. I need to really focus on that. Thank you for the good advice.

  9. Laurie W.--MA says:

    To this day, my 83-yr-old mother insists that she drive whenever we get together! Hate to say it, Melanie, but you will probably never get over that ache when your “child” at whatever age gets behind the wheel. It won’t be as sharp when they get older, but it will still be there every time they back out of your driveway. Can’t add to the great advice you’ve already been given, but I will try to remind myself to drive a little more courteously.

    • You know what’s funny about that? My mom refuses to drive when she visits from Portugal. She begs me to do it. And if it wasn’t for the whole busted pelvis thing last year, she would’ve never driven here in the states again. That said, she was a nervous wreck the entire time and I needed valium by the time I got home from each doctor’s visit, lol. I guess we have role reversal.

  10. While my girls are (twins) 15 and 12, they are already wanting to practice driving and saving to buy a car. I have such mixed feelings about this growing up thing. While it is nice that they can cook a meal and help with things, it is so hard planning for college. I can’t imagine me being away from me for that long. The twins went overseas with school for 12 days and I thought I was going to die. They came back so much more self reliant and it was a great experience for them. They are looking at colleges across the country, etc nd it is me that will have to do the growing up. Giving them wings is what it is all about along with a nest to comfort them when they need it. I can sympathize and am right there with you in letting me children go one by one.

    • Wow, they must have their heads on very straight if they are already thinking about college. Good for you! You did something very right! We are also facing the college thing. My son has one more year and he truly flies the coop. I’m sure that post is going to be a doozy.

  11. My daughter turned 13 today and I just keep thinking of all the things I still need t teach her and how she will be going off soon. So this post totally made me teary!

    • Happy birthday to your daughter Marie!! 13 was a great year. They still think you’re smart and they aren’t lippy yet. Oh, how I miss that year. Enjoy!

  12. I just went through this with my 16 year old daughter! My baby girl driving? How is that possible? But she did fine, passed her test & now has her Juniors License with a very pretty picture of her on it! (not sure how that is possible either since mine always came out looking like I just crawled out of bed) She’s spreading her wings already & I’m not ready for it either! I guess we just have to let this time of their lives happen even though we don’t like it!

    • You know what? Watching him get excited about making a clean turn is pretty cool. So, even though I don’t like it, I appreciate the confidence it’s giving him. I think that’s the key. Being able to see the good in a challenging situation. Must focus on that.

  13. Jen from Quincy says:

    Melanie, your post choked me up.

    Watching our kids grow up is certainly bittersweet.

    The days seem to pass by slowly but the years pass by in the blink of an eye, or so it seems.

    • No choking allowed. But you’re right. It is bittersweet. I just prefer my bittersweet to be in the form of chocolate. 😉

  14. You know, I really do think he will be more responsible than the average new driver. He’s seen first hand the repercussions of distracted driving. I’m sure it left a lasting impression.
    Proud of you for at least thinking of letting go a bit… I know how hard that is for you.

    • I see that he is wary. He definitely has the err on the side of caution thing going which is fine by me. He’s doing good. 🙂

  15. Knowing he must leave someday haunted me from the time my first was born, a son. However, I rejoiced with each new skill that sent him farther away and independent from me. It was bittersweet, to say the least. My oldest is 44 with a son that I keep telling him to enjoy today. Yes, my son’s size 14 shoes at age 13 left no one with the impression he was a little boy. Girls and his reacton were my greatest fear….and other drivers. My son has driven like an old man since he started driving! I felt safe with him…lol. You can be proud of your son, I know.

    Oh, my friend’s daughter was joining the Air Force, going to Texas for training. This child had never been out of the state, barely out of the county. I askd my friend how she felt about her joining the AF. She said it would be good for her because “she is getting a little lippy.” After a view of the world, you will look a little more friendly to him.

    • Aaaah, your last sentence resonates with me. Actually all of it did, but the last sentence gave me hope, lol. I think he will realize he had it pretty good at home and maybe even miss my cooking.

      He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. And he sort of reminds me of a little old man driving too. 🙂

  16. i can’t even imagine what you are feeling. well i can, but i don’t want to yet! my oldest turned 7 yesterday and all day i was sad. i’m happy she is alive and healthy and having birthdays but definitely not happy she is getting older. i miss my baby already and she is 10 years younger than yours. keep strong mama, he will be great 🙂

  17. Gee, Melanie, what memories you brought back to me. I taught my sons to drive, only I made them learn on my manual transmission. No texting or phone calls when you’re a new driver and driving a stick!! Hahaha. They are good drivers and actually made it through college. One is already married. The other lives in NJ and will soon be moving to NYC. I don’t have to worry about him riding the Path every day into the city any more. Now I have to worry about him living in Manhattan and terrorists. You never stop worrying and you never stop missing them.

    I get to see the one in NJ a couple of times a year in his home. He tries to come home at least 4 times a year to visit with us. The younger one is an hour away, but it is still difficult to find time to visit with them because their lives are so busy with work.

    Hold on to all those memories, Mel; they grow faster as they get older. Before you know it they are 31 and 28. But oh, those memories!!!

    Your son will do fine. Like my favorite saying, “My mama didn’t raise no stupid child”, and I’m sure you didn’t with any of your kids. Having been a teacher for 35 years, you are the type of parent that raises children that teachers look forward to having in the classroom. I know that was a very awkward sentence, but I’m sure you got the idea.

    • Oh, to be able to look back and say that it all turned out just fine. Where is that crystal ball when you need it? I’m sure you’re right. It will be fine. I’m just a little skittish after all that’s happened. We are still in the middle of the trial, so that keeps the recent stuff in both of our minds. Good in some ways, bad in others. Thanks for sharing your experiences with me. It helps.

  18. Theresa in Alberta says:

    Just wait until your baby is awaiting the birth of his first baby eh!! excuse me while I go and eat some chocolate…..

  19. By boys are 23 and 18 years old. When they first started driving, they were all about speed. When I was in the passenger seat, I would have a death-grip on my door handle and lean over to the point of using my stomach muscles to anchor me in my seat while they went too fast around the corner. (Sorry, that probably doesn’t make you feel any better!) Eventually, they learned that they don’t need to get from point A to B point in 2.3 seconds and started slowing down.

    If I had one piece of advice as a mom of a new driver, I would say to praise him for all the things he does right as much as possible when you’re out driving with him. There were days where I would criticize their driving and it made them put up a wall and be negative in the driver’s seat. But if I would praise them, they were more comfortable and we would actually have some quality time together in the car which lead to some pretty cool conversations.

    Good luck! 🙂

    • I’ve been doing exactly that. Praising away. Luckily he is very, very cautious. Maybe even a little too cautious. But I’m definitely pointing out everything he is doing right. And for the first time in his life, I think he’s actually listening, lol.

  20. Ugh I have tears in my eyes reading this. I too have a 17 yr old son..my only child. He’s not driving yet…but i guess that’s a good thing because I don’t know how to let go right now. He’s going to a local college next month… and that’s enough letting go I can handle at the moment….thank god hes not going to live on campus….I would die!!
    Him and I are very close…like friends in a way…sorta kinda. I cannot imagine what your going through but I guess your helping me prepare for it. Your an inspiration!

  21. Oh Melanie you brought a tear to my eyes. I was just saying today that my Joe will be getting taller than me before I know it ( he’s 11). It is so hard to see boys turn into men. Our girls will stay feminine but it seems like the boys change more. I have a few more years (3) before Livi starts driving. I can’t imagine how that feels. Good luck!!

  22. Oh this month is breathtaking and tear filled as I send my youngest of three daughters to your neck of the woods. Could you go check on her? Just teasing! I live in Phoenix and the miles–all 2700–seem like more than a continent. We were so stunned when she was accepted to her dream school. We have felt instead of proud just plain humbled by the opportunity for a family of modest means. I have loved every pink filled moment of mothering 3 of the most wonderful girls in the world for 28 years.

    Sending her off to one of the finest schools in the country seems like dim compensation for no more “hey mom how was your day” as she comes home from school everyday.” As we watched possibly our last chick flick before she flies to Cambridge and a whole new life Thursday night, I cried and cried at the end of the movie.

    When my daughter kindly comforted me but confided that she had no qualms about leaving or the future, I knew that life was changing for me. While they venture out to exciting new challenges, we have to find new directions without a mom to help us find the way.

    I have tons to do–always busy, but I will miss those 3 darling daughter spread all over the country and the world. Love you Mel!

  23. Such a powerful piece. You captured this perfectly! My son is 17 and is just starting his senior year in high school. He’s been more and more independent (driving, getting a job, shopping for himself . . . and yes, ‘the girls’) and it’s been VERY hard for me to balance my own sanity around letting go. On the one end of the spectrum I want him to be an independent, capable young man. My husband and I have worked tirelessly to teach him and encourage him and he’s demonstrating how very capable he is. Success! Hmmmm, then there’s the other end of the spectrum though. You mentioned it as “clipping his wings” – I get it. I DO get wrapped up in my own perspective of his life to the point where I long for the “easy and fun” stages we’ve already been through. Funny how our thinking is though. When we were raising him there sure were parts that didn’t feel anything like ‘easy’ or ‘fun’ at the time. So, what it all comes down to is balance. Somewhere in the middle lies the healthy response, the healthy perspective. Your piece felt very balanced (normal? what is that anyway?) and you worded it beautifully. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me to wake up this morning and remember this and to feel not quite so alone in this parenting process. The good news for me? I get to “practice” all this again with my daughter who just turned 16 this summer. 😉

  24. Wow, both my boys had their licenses right after they turned 16. I was never so glad in my life. I was spending all my time driving the both of them back and forth to their jobs. I bought them each a car, which is in my name, and they know if they don’t behave responsibly, they won’t have a car to drive, and also won’t be able to get to work to pay me for the insurance on them.

    I compare everything to what I was doing at their age, which was nothing good right up until I was 40. I trust my kids to make the right decisions, what else can you do? I brought them up with the right values, and hopefully from watching me when they were younger, they learned exactly what they don’t want to be.

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