Driving Away

Cara Achterberg essays

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Tomorrow my oldest child will get his driver’s license. Can I possibly be that old? I’m excited for him, but terrified. He’s already begun riding in cars with other teen drivers and that is some scary stuff for this mom. The entire time he is gone I watch the clock, calculating. My mind follows the time. Now they’re driving up 83. Now they should be there. If they’d had an accident the police would have called by now. I guess they got there safely. Then there’s a brief interim period of peace before it starts back up again. Now they’re driving back down 83. They should be here any minute. Where are they? Should I text him? Oh my God has something happened? And then, headlights. My heart is calm again.

I can’t imagine living like this for the next six years while all three of my children embrace this rite of passage. I want them to have this experience; I do. I have many happy memories of traveling around town with my friends, heady with the possibilities of my own freedom and happy to be going places without a parent driving me. There was new-found power in deciding where and when I would go places. I loved it. And I know my teens will too.

As a parent we constantly worry about things we cannot control. It’s frustrating and painful. We’ve protected them for so many years, sheltered them, defended them, and hopefully we’ve taught them something too. I believe my kids know enough to make smart decisions. We’ve instilled in them some degree of caution, yet I’m painfully aware that it’s a teenage privilege not to worry—to be invincible.

The newsreels of teens killed in car crashes plays through my mind like some kind of sick roulette. It seems to happen every year. Whose child will it be this year? Why wouldn’t it be mine? Sometimes I let my mind unravel that particular nightmare….how could I survive that kind of pain? What if it wasn’t my child, but he was driving? I can’t imagine letting all three of my kids drive anywhere together without me. I couldn’t bear the worry. I never fear when we fly somewhere together. I think well, if we all die, we all die. I won’t have to live without them. This is different. This is beyond my control, but obviously not beyond my imagination.

Last night as I timed my son’s latest trip up to the city with a friend, I focused on letting it go. It’s not just an overplayed sentiment from this year’s biggest movie. I have to let it go. I have to trust my son, his friend, and this world. I suppose I have to trust God on this one too. I can’t keep him here forever. He is ready to fly away. I’ve worked hard to strengthen his wings. Now is the time for trust if ever there was one. Now I have to trust that this is the way it should be. Everyday takes him another step away from home. And it should. I want that for him.

As he takes the wheel, I have to let go of it. I know this, but it won’t stop my heart from following him up the road anyway.

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About the Author

Cara Achterberg

I'm a blogger, freelance writer, occasional local columnist, and (hopefully) soon to be published YA author. You can find links to my blogs, news of my writing exploits, and inspiration for teen writers on my . In my spare time (ha) I teach workshops on Homemade Life, run our small organic farm, and on a good day spend an hour on the back of a horse.

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