Katie with her niece, Kaylee (I'm already a grandma, but that is another story)
As the keys flew through the air, I felt as though I was thrown into some weird time-warp where my child transformed from little girl to teenager to young woman. The twenty years of life we’ve spent together seemed to flash before me in the sunlight reflecting on the silver.
I can’t help but wonder when this happened? When did my little girl who toddled around the house grow into this beautiful young woman getting behind the wheel? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was rocking her and singing “Puff the Magic Dragon”? Was it that long ago that I pushed her on a swing and caught her at the bottom of a slide? I’m certain that only a few years have passed since she reached for my hand as she crossed the street. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can still vividly see her in her diapered behind sitting on top of the kitchen table brushing her curly strawberry blonde hair. I remember as if it were yesterday, her curls bobbing up and down as she rode her rocking horse to some imagined destination. It wasn’t long after that she was riding a real horse with me leading her through the pasture. Then, one day, she took the reins all by herself.
My brain was screaming: It is too soon! She cannot grow up yet! I don’t know if I’ve taught her everything she needs to know. She’s still just a baby, isn’t she? No. No, today is the day that everything shifts. Today, we are making our maiden stick shift voyage on the road (after many weeks of lurching through our pasture). It is another cruel reminder that my little Katie is a grown woman. Goodness knows, she could have children of her own soon, and I could be a grandma! Grandma! I’m too young for that!
I was quickly brought back to reality when I heard the grinding of first gear, and I barely escaped whiplash as we jerked down the road. “Katie,” I said calmly, “ease you foot off the clutch.”
“I am, Mom!” Came her exasperated reply.
I could see the tears begin to well in her eyes. “I’ve got it, Mom!”
“Okay, honey,” I said through clenched teeth, “let’s just get to Walmart and back.”
Walmart was about two miles down the road. We hit three stop lights along the way. There are many things that I am thankful for in my life, but on this day, I was thankful that we have very flat roads! We only stalled about four times and my life only flashed before my eyes one time when we were turning into Walmart, and the oncoming traffic was fast approaching our stalled car.
Katie Parking the car presented its set of challenges. We found a spot fairly far away with only one car to the right of the parking space. Katie slowly began to ease her foot off the clutch in first gear, and we lurched and stalled, lurched and stalled until, finally, the car was far enough in the parking space that I deemed it parked. We got out of the car; Katie went first, and I followed behind her (getting out on her side because I couldn’t open my door).
We inspected the parking job, and I told her how proud I was of her even if the car was a bit crooked. She gave me an exasperated look reserved for me. It’s the modified eye roll that says, “Mom I know you’re lying just to make me feel better.”
Isn’t that what moms are supposed to do? Isn’t my job to build up her confidence so that one day she’ll get into the stick shift car and venture out on her own while I sit home waiting anxiously by the phone for her call telling me she's arrived safely?
As we browsed through Walmart, I worried about our return trip: Would she be able to back out of the parking space? Would she stall in the middle of the intersection leaving the busy store?
Worry, worry, worry!
It reminded me of her sixteenth birthday when I naively took her and a “few” of her friends to the beach and rented a room for the night. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! The six friends grew to about sixteen friends (including boys), and I was entrusted with keeping all the girls safe. Needless to say, it was not the smartest thing I have ever done. Katie still reminds me of my “overbearing” presence. The icing on the cake was when she called me from the hospital after I let her stay with her older sister to go out on a jet ski. She had fallen off the back of the jet ski and hit her chin on the way down and was in the process of getting her chin stitched up.
Sometimes, when I look back over the years, I wonder how I survived motherhood and all its challenges. I wonder about all the times I flew by the seat of my pants second guessing my decisions - did I give them all enough guidance? Did I give them too much guidance? Did I allow them the freedom to make mistakes? Did I prepare them for all the shifts they will face in their lives?
We made our way back to the car. Katie looked at me as we settled in and said, “I got this, Mom.”
“I know you do, Kate.” I said as my eyes misted. “I know you will do just fine.”
I glanced over at her and, just for a moment, I thought I saw that curly top toddler. I blinked, and I saw the little girl on top of her pony. One more blink and I saw her running down the soccer field. “Where did the time go?” I wondered. Then, I was brought back to reality as the car lurched backward out of the parking space.
“Ease that foot off the clutch” I reminded her.
“Okay, mom” she smiled, “Thanks for doing this.”
Shift: it’s something we all have to learn. I just hope that I have taught her to shift well. I think I have. I know the kind of person she has become. She is smart and confident. She is tenacious and strong despite her slight appearance. She is beautiful inside and out. I love my Katie more than she’ll ever know. I love her kindness and gentle spirit, and I know that her ability to shift will grow stronger as she drives down the road of life.