Tuesday, April 2, 2013

back seat driver

i remember the first time i drove alone as a new mother with Cairo in the car.
She couldn't have been more than a few days old... i don't even remember where we were going, but i strapped her tiny 6 pound body into a plastic car seat, securing all the straps and making sure that she was safe and snug in the back seat before i climbed into the drivers seat. i backed out of the driveway and she started to cry.
"It's ok, baby..." i crooned... to no avail... her thin cry became a wail and before i was half a kilometer down the road, i had pulled over and was almost in tears myself trying in vain to unbuckle my screaming baby to comfort her.
When she turned one, her grandparents bought her one of those toy ride on cars. We still have it 6 siblings later - a little rougher for wear, but it still gets used. We laughed, when it was still shiny and new, to see the contrasting image of a toddling one year old behind the wheel of her very own car. Babies don't drive. But she'd spit and bounce, making the purring sound of her engine, and her little car would go and we'd cheer and laugh as we created safe pathways for her toy-mobile to travel.
When she switched to a forward facing car seat, she had a baby sister, and we had traded our crappy old car in for a truck. She rode up high in that back seat and when she decided the trip had been too long, she would try to pry the straps apart so she could escape the bonds of her infernal carseat. i remember one trip from Manitoba to Edmonton, she was mad that she couldn't get out. We played children's songs and daddy drove while i turned my body in my seat, craning my neck, trying to entertain my angry daughter. We'd pass her any number of things to try to distract her, but she'd fling them to the ground. Finally, daddy passed back the little porcelain container of carmex that he used on his lips on those broiling days working on the floor of the mill. Five seconds later, there was a violent CRACK as it hit the front windshield and we howled at our stubborn little girl who continued to sulk in the backseat, refusing to be distracted from her goal of escape or her displeasure at being constrained.
Years passed, carseats became a thing of her past - and i still remember when she'd try to sit extra hard on the front seat when she'd climb in, trying to make the airbag light go off - because it seemed she was never quite heavy enough.
Finally she turned 14 - and in Alberta, that meant she was eligible for her learners licence... Her dad took her - and i remember looking at her picture when it arrived in the mail, thinking - she hasn't changed a bit in all these years... She still has those enormous blue eyes set in a pale face - the smallness of her frame belies the stubborn chickie who resides within - all deep waters; thinking, but firm, decided and purposeful...
Over the next two years, there was drivers ed, and so many, many, many trips sitting in the passenger seat, slamming my foot vainly into a brake that was no longer mine to press. Finally, a few months ago, in the dead of our Albertan winter, some woman with a clipboard and pen, decided that my sweet daughter could now be licenced to drive by herself.
And she does.
And this is where i'm hardly even talking about driving anymore...
But sometimes... when i watch her... i want to slam on the brakes even now... "Take that corner slow, my little love... don't slip, there could be ice... are you signaling and giving yourself enough time to stop?"
Every other driver is a threat in a mama's eyes. Every text that tells me she's leaving work, brings wordless prayers. Every time that little orange car pulls up to our house, there's sweet relief.
She's driving.
And sometimes... worse than being a back seat driver... i want to bundle her up in a soft pink blanket - and buckle her into a carseat. i want to strap her in, and keep her safe. "Let's let daddy drive - his reflexes are honed, he's experienced and confident. He'll keep us safe..."
And yet, here i see my little heart strutting around outside my body - as though it doesn't leave me totally exposed and vulnerable.
i want to growl like a wild animal at a boy who might bring pain. When i see her eyes light up at the mention of his name, i want to slam my foot on the brake and shout warning... When she's navigating winter driving conditions in confusing friendships in the throes of normal teenage hormones and pressures and servanthood... i want to...
Take the wheel.
Oh girlie...
How well do i know those roads aren't safe... but your safety isn't all in my hands anymore...
And so i do the best i can, mothering in these last fluttering moments between childhood and adulthood - trusting you... to navigate these roads with the care and discernment they deserve.
i love you.


Kali said...

Love this Paige...

paige said...

Thanks, Kali... Good to have company on this road of motherhood. :)

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Carol said...

Enjoyed your post today - I can relate!

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Lesley said...

Paige this is so beautifully written. It really speaks to me. Thank you.


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