Learning to let go as my teen starts driving

It has finally happened in my house. I am now one of those parents in the parking lot of the Toney Burger Activity Center and Stadium trying really hard to take deep breaths, pretending to be calm and trying not to scream, “We’re all going to die!” as my kid sits behind the wheel for the first time, turns on the ignition, and lets his foot off the brake and onto the gas.

Saturday and Sunday, I was one of a handful of parents in the parking lot at the Toney Burger Center having a real dose of letting go. I could see on their faces the looks of terror, the beams of pride and the sighs of relief when it was over. I went through all those emotions, too.

Benjamin Villalpando holds up his learner’s permit after getting it last week. Nicole Villalpando/Austin American-Statesman

Unlike all the other mini lessons in letting go, this one felt the biggest. I could tell him to hit the brakes, but whether or not he would do that was up to him. He and he alone would be the one to control whether we would hit the cement block in the middle of the parking lot. (Thank you, Ben, for listening to your mom and not hitting it or the parked police car or the buses or any of the thousands of obstacles you never notice are in a seemingly empty parking lot until your kid is the one driving in it.)

We’re going to be taking our time with this step toward adulthood. He needs time to finally go above 10 miles an hour and not turn on the bright headlights every time he pushes the turn signal. I need more practice at being calm and reassuring.

One day, soon, we will venture out of the parking lot of the Burger Center. We might even hit the streets of Sunset Valley, and then maybe one day Austin.

To all my fellow parents in the parking lot, I see you. You’re doing amazing… your kid, well, I’m scared for all of us.



Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at austin360.com/raisingaustin. She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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