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There’s a First Time for Everything

WFTV newscaster  shares the anxiety of giving her daughter the car keys for the first time…

“You know how to adjust your seat? What about where the blinkers are? No radio, no phone, no texting. No driving on I-4 yet. You are allowed to have one person with you. No speeding. You have an earlier curfew now. No food. Be smart. Oh, and no boys. Are you sure you can do this?”

My daughter: “Yes, mother. I am good.”

And just like that my 16-year-old daughter looked at me and did a hair giggle flip and she was on her way. Officially a licensed driver for many months, she completed driving school to help ensure she was ready and now it was time to let her drive. Like alone. Like with no parental supervision. Like my stroke was happening now.

I mean I know most teens can’t wait for 16. Can’t wait to drive. Freedom finally behind the wheel! I had gone through it with my two older sons. My oldest, Chase, had to be prodded to get behind the wheel. Finally at 17 years old with a license in his back pocket he still wanted me to drive him everywhere. I get it; I-4 sucks. It can be a scary place. Forget all the construction—all I worry about are the people who drive like they are in a NASCAR race just trying to get to the Altamonte Mall. The ones that cut you off or the ones that love to give you the middle finger salute if you aren’t going 80 miles an hour in the middle lane. Finally I had to put my foot down and say, “Son you have to get behind the wheel at some point, I won’t be driving you to your senior prom.” (Well only if he wanted me to!) And slowly my oldest got behind that wheel and gained the confidence to navigate the roadways.

My other son Maxwell, who has been flying planes with instructors since he was 13 years old, was ready to roll immediately when he turned 16. No prodding. No pushing him into the driver’s seat. He just was ready. I can remember being 13 and my grandmother letting me drive her Cadillac in the neighborhood. I couldn’t wait to turn 15 to get my permit and then my license. I thought I was so cool!

And I remember the day after church when I begged my mother to let me drive home. B-E-G-G-E-D. Granted, I didn’t have too much time behind the wheel but I convinced her I was ready. So the moment she turned to me and said “OK, drive us home,” and gave me the keys to our station wagon which was the size of a Mack truck I may have freaked out just a little. OK, A LOT. I started the big jalopy and put it in drive and stepped on the gas. I caused slight whiplash to my brother and lost one hubcap driving home. But we made it and that drive gave me the confidence to keep on going.

So here I am now with a “first” for my first girl. We all go through them with kids. First play date, first sleepover, first school play, first prom, first heartbreak, first application to college. Firsts. It is what childhood seems to be based on. So many things to try for the first time. To achieve for the first time. To struggle for the first time. To fail for the first time. All of it paves the path to adulthood.

But with my daughter getting behind the wheel of her first car and hitting the road, well, it is giving me hives. My little girl with the Barbies in a box in the corner of her closet is one step closer to total parental freedom. And while this isn’t my first time going through these experiences as a mother, the feeling doesn’t change. While I’m excited she’ll be embarking on a new chapter in her life, part of me is sad because she is growing up. Firsts are never easy.

However, the great news is I get to do it all over again with the triplets.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s November 2017 issue.

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