(A little something I wrote when Baby Girl turned 16. From “Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom”)
July 2009 — The tiny injustices of parenthood are too many to count — wearing formula stains to work, refereeing tantrums in Walmart, fielding the you’re-to-stupid-to-breathe-my-air eye rolls and having to eat the gummed, lint-covered vanilla wafer in the middle of church service before your kid can stick it in the hair of the woman sitting in front of her, who just happened to be the pastor’s wife.
Oh, that last one was just me?
But we’ve all been there. After 15 years and 353 days as a parent, I thought I was fairly experienced. I’d grown cocky, even.
I wasn’t prepared for the biggest injustice to date — handing over the keys to the car.
I thought I was. Really I did. I was fine when I was teaching Baby Girl to drive. Well, besides some persistent nausea, the twitch in my brake-stomping foot and those nightmares. But mostly fine.
Then we started car shopping. Still fine because this was shopping — an area I knew. Baby Girl hadn’t let me shop with her since she turned 12 and decided my familiarity with knits made me an inappropriate fashion consultant so, in a way, it was kind of fun except for those car guys who kept trying to sell us cars.
The problem came when we actually bought a car in preparation for the big day when she could drive it. We bought a used car and I kept picturing the transmission dropping out in the middle of the road somewhere.
My stomach churned.
Baby Girl’s face glowed.
First she named it. Gumby, because it was green. Then, she personalized it. A birthday gift of an Ed Hardy cover means my cute little daughter is driving with skulls on her steering wheel, plus she added a bandana and beads to the rearview mirror.
She refused to put the large, permanent Student Driver sign on the back like I wanted to. Finally, she put the key on her key chain. “Look, I have car keys!” Baby Girl said.
I felt sick.
Somehow, while car shopping, I had pictured me riding along beside her through our golden years, me riding shotgun when she drove to school, to prom, to football games, to college, to her wedding.
Suddenly it became clear she intended to drive this thing with no one else in it. I wish someone had warned me. On Thursday, Baby Girl turned 16. Y’all know I’m not old enough, right? I’m just not sure how this happened.
I would gladly eat a soggy Nilla wafer right now for just a glimpse of Baby Girl still in her crib, blonde hair curled around her face, bottom in the air as she slept. Or to be able to creep into the middle school to sneak a peek of the boy who first asked her to a dance.
Instead, on Thursday afternoon, I told my baby goodbye and sent her into the cruel world behind the wheel of a potential weapon of mass destruction.
I have two things to say: Firstly, everyone stay off the roads. Secondly, call me if you see a petite blonde girl driving a green Honda CRV with skulls on the steering wheel even two miles over the speed limit, kay? I’m counting on your help.
Maybe that and the Death by Chocolate ice cream left over from her party will get me through the week. By the way, do y’all think this nausea thing’s permanent?