I am not quite ready for this!

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My daughter called from school: “Mom? They want me to take my driving test tomorrow.”

My baby! My littlest one who celebrated her Sweet Sixteen not quite a month ago. My stomach did a lurch. “We’d better go practice today after school.”

We had spent six weeks last fall getting up before dawn so that she could attend her Driver’s Ed classes. Funny how it was never hard for her to get up on those mornings! Driving lessons took her through increasingly complex situations until she was driving through town in rush-hour traffic. But test anxiety hit and she failed her first test.

As promised, we drove down to Kalispell and she did a wonderful job handling the traffic. We found a quiet side street to practice parallel parking. This did not go so well – in fact, to be polite, it was a disaster. After three miserable attempts she was in tears. “But I followed all the points perfectly” she cried, listing them, and I had to agree. I tried to laugh it off : “You’re getting all the bad tries out of the way today so you’ll be perfect tomorrow!” But all I got in return was one of those teenage vampire daughter looks, the kind that I remember being rather good at myself several decades ago.

We went around the corner. Another attempt. Another disaster. More tears, accompanied by pounding on the steering wheel. (You have to know her to know how startlingly unlike her this display of frustration was.) Finally she flung open the car door, got out and announced “I’m done. You’re driving.” I knew better than to disagree, and we headed off to Costco where we sat dismally in the little eating area having what turned out to be supper. “Do you want to drive home?” Another vampire daughter look. I drove us home, and wondered how long she would have to wait before she could take her test for the third time.

The next morning she was back to her usual sunny disposition, but all day l day I fretted: I’ve let her down badly – we should have practiced this so much more, but I thought we’d have longer. The time of her test came. “Good luck, thinking of u,” I texted, but my phone remained silent.

Finally, a little chirp signaled a response: “I did my parallel parking perfectly” it read. “Woo hoo!” I replied with relief, pride and a little disbelief.

I met her at the school. As she walked towards me her face was all smiles. She thrust the test paper in front of me “91 percent!” She exclaimed triumphantly, “and a 5 out of 5 for the parallel parking!”

Fortunately I have her to myself a little longer, for the Montana Graduated License requires her to get 50 hours of driving with a parent before obtaining her full license. But I know those precious hours will slip away too  quickly. She is already negotiating terms for sharing the minivan with me, and I’ve seen her eyeing the spot where her brother used to park, empty since he left for college. I know I have to let my baby spread her wings, but I am not quite ready for this. Not yet!

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