I’ve been a mother for over a decade and a half. Shouldn’t that make me an expert? I’ve changed diapers, I’ve burped babies, I’ve sent children off to kindergarten, I’ve cleaned up messes in the nighttime, I’ve survived homework, I’ve cheered at sports events, I’ve attended concerts and concerts and concerts. Perhaps — in most areas — I could be labeled “seasoned.” Perhaps.

Yet, despite my steel nerves and strong constitution, I wasn’t quite prepared for my most recent motherhood milestone: having a driving teenager. It happened rather suddenly. One day my son was born. The next day (so it seemed) he was eligible for a driver’s permit.
“A what?” I asked him, shocked.

“I can go get my driver’s permit,” he explained.

“You’re not big enough to drive a car yet,” I countered, looking up at him. (He was already a good foot taller than me.)

“Well, I’d better start now if I want to get my license when I turn 16.”

I refused to believe him, and so I looked online. Driver’s Permit: Must be 15; must pass a written test.

“That’s it? I cringed. “No class? No completed range testing? No signing your life in blood?” Nope.

And so we drove to the DMV. They started by taking his photo.

“That’s awfully confident,” I thought to myself. “As if they think he will actually pass the test!” But I smiled and told him his picture turned out great. It did. He looked, well, like a young man.

We sat nervously in the waiting room. “Number 547!” barked the automatic voice. Since we were number 2,003 I was sure we wouldn’t be out of there before closing time. “2,003!” rang the automated voice. Who taught these people to count?

“Birth certificate,” said a kind lady. I handed it over. It had been just yesterday when the document had arrived in the mail, shortly after our oldest was born.

I half-checked the date as she looked it over. Yep. He would soon be 16. So unfair. We signed a few documents (thank goodness he was still a minor) and then we waited and waited.

And then, he took a test. I tried to read, and folded my papers nervously, and glanced around the room at the other young (or old?) moms waiting for their students. It would have appeared that I was the one testing, and not my baby.

The next thing I knew, he was standing by me, smiling.

“Here’s my permit!” I jumped up and hugged him. “I can drive you home,” he offered.

“Not on your life!” I responded (or on my life). It seemed too crazy. Just yesterday he was in a toddler car seat, I thought to myself.

It took me a few weeks to let him drive. He practiced in the church parking lot. He practiced on the country roads. He drove his dad to a few meetings. And then, one day, I finally bit the bullet. “OK, you can drive me today,” I relented.

He carefully put the key into the ignition. He backed the bright red, 100-foot-long (just kidding) family van out of the driveway. He didn’t hit the log fence. He didn’t hit the mailbox. He didn’t hit the tractor coming down the road. He pulled to the turn.

“Watch out!” I yelled. He jumped.

“I saw the stop sign up there,” he confessed, giving me a half smile.

We pulled onto the main road. He turned right (without putting us into the irrigation ditch) and suddenly, we were zooming along, next to semis, and farm trucks and other family vans. “A curve!” I called out before I could help it.

“Yes, I can do curves,” he assured me. We pulled up to an intersection.

“Left-hand turns are hard,” I explained.

“Yes,” he replied, and smoothly pulled into the middle, waited his turn, and turned left.

It seemed like an eternity to me, but we eventually arrived at the junior high school to pick up his brother. My knuckles were white, my toes were clenched, my eyes were huge and my heart was pounding. But we had made it in one piece.

“Hey! Good goin’!” called a teacher who recognized my driver son. He gave him thumbs up.

Yes, good goin’, I thought to myself. We’re safe and alive.

I breathed a sigh of relief, scooted over to the driver’s seat, and drove both of my good, tall, handsome, careful sons home. Enough excitement for one day.

Potty training? Easy. Pulling teeth? No problem. Counseling crying second graders? My specialty. Killing spiders in the nighttime? Been there. Driving with teenagers? Hmmmmm. I walked into the house a different mother. I was older and grayer and wiser. I had reached a new milestone.

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