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It's Time To Put My Child In The Driver's Seat

20/01/2017 11:32 AM AEDT | Updated 20/01/2017 11:32 AM AEDT
F.J. Jim via Getty Images
They're not little forever.

This morning I realised with a hideous, stomach-churning lurch that in all likelihood, 2017 will be the last year I'm going to be driving my son to school. The 3:30pm pick-up will also soon be a memory of the past. And the loss is as profound as it is humbling (and heartbreaking).

There are signs of my child's impending adulthood scattered throughout the house and throughout our lives. Not least is the fact that, from next month, he will be driving us to school with me sitting bolt upright in the passenger seat pressing an invisible brake with escalating urgency. It's quite the metaphor for growing up really.

He is 16 next month and the journey from child to adult is veering precariously close to the adult line. Our conversations are beginning to change -- I am finally learning to leave my inner child out of it and talk to him like the young adult he is. (I take credit for my brilliant parenting that he is more mature than I am). He has settled into who he is, his whole "vibe" is maturing and settling (and, as an aside, it's a pretty damn awesome vibe).

He is at that level of brain development where he has his own firm thoughts and beliefs and he is not afraid to express them. It's almost like the impending loss of the school run in how humbling and heartbreaking it is.

I think back to all our drives over the years from preschool to now and I can take off my rose tinted glasses for long enough to know that they weren't all blissful and idyllic. It wasn't just talking about major life events while managing to avoid eye contact thanks to the brilliant architecture of cars. There were arguments about how late we were, about his face being stuck in an electronic device, there were my bad moods and there was traffic and real life and general grumpiness (from both sides). But there was also a comfort and ease in having him by my side. Even without the distance of perspective I can see how much we shared in those drives and I can feel, rather intensely, the joy I often felt as I was driving to pick him up after a particularly shitty day. As much as he was sometimes the fly in my ointment, he was more often my balm.

And just like that the years of me in the driver's seat, quite literally, are almost over. It's time for me to allow him his chance at the wheel to drive us to school and god knows where else.

It feels like I am about to slide down that old woman warren where I get caught up in the joys of childhood and how much I loved having a small child who brought out the very best (and worst) in me, the dreamlike abyss of childhood wonder that makes you forget the crying, the tedious repetition, the mind numbing boredom, the screaming and crying and lack of sleep.

It's not that distant that I don't remember all that with crystal clear clarity but it's close enough to ending that I realise how important it is to savour and remember, to hold it close and press it firmly into the folds of my brain so that I can remember it and cling to it whenever I need it.

This is not one of those mother-of-teen laments that implores you to enjoy every minute of your child's life. I'm not reminding you that all it all passes so quickly and you only know what you've lost when it's gone. I'm just reminding myself that I've had an awe-inspiring ride and it's time to let someone else take the driver's seat for now.

I hope my son makes as brilliant a driver as he was a passenger. I think I have a lot to learn from him.

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