“The speed limit here is 50, so you might want to pick up the pace a little.” What am I thinking, putting my life into the hands of a 16-year-old? Strapping myself into a metal bucket and putting him in control of hurtling it down the road without killing us? Telling him to drive faster? How is that sane? But he’s got his learner’s permit and needs his practice hours.
I have a new criterium for how people should plan their families, in case anyone should ask my advice. Remember, those adorable babies are going to grow into teens. How many kids should you have? How many ride-alongs with student drivers can your nerves handle? There’s your number.
At least my kids are both pretty conscientious and not reckless. The first time I rode with my son, I joked as I climbed into the passenger seat, “My life in your hands.”
“So, no pressure?” he responded.
Though the day-to-day responsibilities and constant tasks that come with little kids can seem unrelenting, in some ways it was easier for me, psychologically, being the one in charge of getting everything done and keeping us all alive. Of course my goal is to see my kids grow into responsible adults, but it’s hard turning over that control. Oh, yeah, maybe I have a few control issues. I have been known to re-bag my groceries before putting them in the back of my van.
As my kids got big enough to start helping, it wasn’t too hard for me to live with their methods and results for sweeping the kitchen floor, for example. So a few crumbs got missed. No biggy. But as they grew, so did their responsibilities, and some came with real stakes. Getting careless with a power mower is a lot more dangerous than getting careless with a broom.
My older kid is known to stay up in the middle of the night and cook things while the rest of us sleep. This can be wonderful, waking up to freshly baked goods. But I have to trust that the stove will get turned off and we won’t be burned in our beds. And now, in the car, I ride in the passenger seat sometimes, trying to push down thoughts about how if they mess this up we could all die.
For years, they’ve had to trust me not to leave the stove on, not to wreck us in the car, not to be careless in an important area and allow the worst to happen. I know it’s natural for the balance to shift. Sometimes there’s a sudden and dramatic change. A parent has a stroke or an accident. Sometimes it happens more gradually.
It’s likely my kids will eventually have more responsibility for me than I have for them. I know it can’t be easy for my mom, entrusting her life into my hands. In every aspect she has to let go and hope she raised me right. She doesn’t have control over her money, what doctors she sees or even where she lives. Not that I don’t get her input on anything. But it’s up to me to make the ultimate decisions and try not to blow it. Her life in my hands. No pressure, right?