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Teaching My Son to Drive Helped Me Learn an Important Lesson

My son was one of those toddlers who didn’t just crawl, he climbed. Furniture, bookshelves, and of course, the stairs.

Yes, we had a baby gate, but that didn’t stop him. He’d hoist his tiny body right over it. In fact, he seemed to view all of our babyproofing efforts as just another challenge, one he conquered again and again.

Before his first birthday, I was forced to make the tough decision to teach my son how to safely climb up and down stairs. Ultimately, I decided it was better to teach him the safe way to tackle the stairs rather than leaving him to figure it out on his own and risk him getting injured.

Because he was going to climb those stairs, one way or another.

Now that he’s 15 and learning to drive, it feels like we’re crawling up the stairs all over again. I’m not ready for this! I’d love to keep him buckled into my passenger seat forever, but he’s ready to fly. So ready.

Every single night, he asks if he can take me for a drive. He volunteers to be the chauffeur each time we go out to eat or run errands.

And I see the pride on his face when he parks squarely between the lines or backs straight down our long driveway. It’s like his first time biking, swimming, diving into the deep end of the pool, skateboarding, going to his first sleepover party or overnight camp, even the first day of his first job. He’s so adventurous, cool and calm, while I’m trying my best to keep it together.

Each time, with each scary new thing, I have to remind myself that I can’t protect him forever.

That he wants and needs to learn these things. Yes, it’s terrifying to watch. Yes, it would be easier for me to keep him in a protective bubble. But he needs to learn. And it’s a good thing he wants to learn, wants to be independent and self-sufficient.

I remember running behind his tiny bicycle until he pulled ahead without me. Within minutes he crashed into a mailbox. And it was painful to watch. But you know what? He got back on his bike and rode himself all the way to the park—where he stopped too fast and went right over the handlebars!

But that’s why I put a helmet on his head. And he’s never again crashed into another mailbox, though he has flown the handlebars a few times. And it was painful for me, every time, but I knew it was a lesson he had to learn—and a lesson I had to learn, too.

Teaching my son to drive is no different than teaching him to ride a bike or teaching him to crawl up the stairs. We’ve been here before, but it doesn’t get any easier or hurt any less. It’s a hard lesson, but it’s one I’m still learning, time and again, with every new experience: Show him the way, but let him lead. Teach him my best, and watch him fly.

When not worrying about her teenagers, Jacqueline Miller is writing about them. Her recent work appears in Parenting Insider and on her website. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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