Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

…your kid gets her driving permit.

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This is the thing nobody tells you when you plan for your first child. You spend hours on Pintrest admiring baby room colours, get surprised by your friends for your first shower, and plan for that really ‘J&J’ moment of labor when ‘the most wonderful thing in your life’ comes in the form of a soft, tiny pink baby who looks tenderly up at you with her big blue eyes … and smiles.

Then you give birth.

Which is nothing like the ad for Pampers, but rather a realistic harbinger for things to come.

If, like me, you have four kids, you spend years of your life not sleeping, cleaning up poop, cleaning up other stuff you’d rather not remember, cooking and then cleaning up the table, the dishes, the floor. You calm them down when they’re crying, and encourage them when life gets hard. You hug them. You take their side, but teach them to be sensitive to others; you officiate classes like Manners 101, Medicine 101, Psychology 101, Religion 101, Motivational Speaking 101, Cultural Awareness 101, Hygiene 101, Math-English-Geography-Gym 101. And then you fall asleep exhausted on the sofa, trying to stay awake for your favourite 20-minute sitcom, which, after the merlot you downed an hour ago while trying to remain a calm and wise bulwark in the midst of a teenage meltdown, seems impossibly long. You snore.

Then, suddenly, they appear taller, kinder, more reasonable. You find yourself relaxing as you morph from parent to equal, to friend. Life suddenly shines on you like a great, golden sun as your children begin praising you like adults, telling their equally-adult friends how awesome you are as a mom. You start to relish; you thank your lucky stars that they still like hanging with you on a Friday night. You tell yourself it was all worth it.

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Then they make you get in the passenger seat.

Last week my daughter and I drove around for about two hours to give her some road practise before the big day. My general opinion is that once I feel safe enough to text a friend while she’s driving, she’s probably ready to give the driving test a try. That is not yet the case. Somewhere between a feeling of relative safety and bonafide terror, she hung a left over the railroad tracks – and then stopped.

“There’s a car coming,” she said. “I should let it pass.”

A distant horn started blaring behind us.

“Yeah,” I answered, “But if you use your blinker you should be good to go. I mean… I think you have right of way here.”

The blaring was growing closer, sounding more like a bullhorn by the minute. I turned my head to see (lo, and behold) a train barreling right toward our car, which was parked on (yes, I said ‘on’) the tracks.

“Step on it! Go!” I screeched.

(This is when I think it is appropriate to play the mom-card to a 19-year-old.)

Needless to say, it took a good deal of unholy language to get her to move her theoretical a** off the tracks… but it saved our sorry lives.

“Mom, I can’t believe you cussed so loud. I think we should practise that again – let’s give it another go.”

I popped a ginger pill and wished for an Old Tom. No one tells you that just when you think you’ve got this parenting thing covered — after labouring in their favour for nineteen years — you have to put your own hide on the line. Nobody tells you in the maternity ward that the ultimate parenting sacrifice still hovers on the distant horizon.

She bought me a cup of coffee as a kind of consolation prize (don’t get me started on the way she negotiated that drive-thru) and we drove home reminiscing over our dramatic near-death experience, which, incidentally, she thought was hilarious.

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