#Mums #learning #curve #teen #drivers #seat
My youngest daughter drove to work by herself this morning. Her work after school and on weekends is across town at the martial arts school where we’ve both trained since she was five years old. We’ve been driving through Sydney, from the trees and water of the land just north of the Parramatta River, the river that runs through Sydney and empties into the harbour, to the denser, dirtier and livelier inland South-West for twelve years.
We’ve made that trip over 3,000 times. He knows every corner, every pothole, every traffic light; she knows where the lanes merge and divide, and where to turn right to avoid them. We have driven early on the weekend morning before the city wakes up, at rush hour, and at night when the moon sits solid and low on the horizon and the illuminated city appears over the rises and curves.
It’s a 20-minute drive with a clear driveway and up to 40 minutes on weekend afternoons with their Saturday drivers and fewer lanes of traffic. We’ve driven through every stage of WestConnex’s massive development with every other driver just as baffled as we are.
We’ve driven through tantrums and crises, a world collapsing with grade-school loyalties, (un)fairly awarded awards, pride and estrangements. I have stepped aside to climb on the back and hold a little girl gripped by a sudden terror about her suitability.
I have seen her migrate from the back seat to the front seat, transitioning into her adult body. I catch her in profile, her hair gathered on her head, her long legs folded around her bag. Quickly putting on her uniform in the car, she learned that she had to give up this freedom. I have seen her aware that her body is no longer just her tool to be used as she likes, but that it is an object – seen.
I turned on the radio to drown out the dramatic sobs over the parents’ cancellation of a second ear piercing. She has criticized my music, spat scorn, locked on her phone, scrolling, thumbs up. However, she has also said things to me. Work dramas, the director’s latest invented outrage. Little things but gold for a parent of teens.
The road is real for her. Spatial awareness and speed are real. We had a few binges, inclement weather and inattentiveness were the cause, but once we ran into another’s back, my frustration was to blame. She watches, tenses, flinches when other drivers enter our space.
I hate and welcome this. When she migrated to the driver’s seat, she brought it with her. The required 120 hours and more of learning gave new meaning to our journey, harnessed for their ambitions. Once confident enough to drive Y talk, shared more. She wasn’t going anywhere, and as the only distraction allowed, my cleverly casual questions sometimes paid off.