"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘kids growing up’ Category

A Nature-Made Mental Health Day

 

IMAG0761My friend and I had gone to Springfield to spend the day with our college-aged kids, but no definitive plan had been decided. Icy drizzle limited us to an indoor activity for our visit, so we crossed off an outing to the World’s Largest Fork. (Yes, this is an actual attraction in Springfield, and yes, I would love to see what it looks like).  After weighing our options for the Saturday afternoon before us, we decided to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops.

The Wildlife Aquarium at the museum has a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium that features 35,000 live fish, but there are also quite a few reptiles and birds sprinkled into the galleries.  Coming out of the swamp exhibit, I saw the above quote displayed on a sign.  The words are attributed to John Muir, known as a Scottish naturalist and preservationist who lived during the late 1800s.  As I wandered with our group throughout the exhibits, this quote stood out to me.  I loved the visual of how all of nature is knitted together, as if connecting everything with a single thread.  Just a little tug, a little awareness, and all things come together into focus.

Who knew puffer fish had such cute little teeth to smile with?

I’d had my phone out the entire visit, and even though it was being used as a camera, it made me realize how even the simple joy of witnessing nature was connected to some kind of technology for me.   There are times I am trying so hard to document an experience that I forget to actually live the experience as it’s happening.  I continued to take pictures for the rest of the galleries, but I made it a point to try to make the photography secondary to what I was seeing and who I was with at the moment.

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IMAG0731It was nice to not have a packed schedule for the day, just a late breakfast with the kids, an aquarium visit done at a leisurely pace and plenty of good conversation.  The weather wasn’t getting any better, and we didn’t want to get back home too late, so after a coffee stop we called it a day, gave the kids hugs and headed home.

I like to believe that the “single tug at nature” process had begun.  I suppose that once Mother Nature decided she had my attention with her beauty, she decided it was time to show me her power.  That Saturday, Nature was the one that had the power to make me quit rushing through things and stop to take a breath.

The freezing drizzle continued for the first part of the trip, but the roads were drivable.  As we continued down I-44, the windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with the precipitation.  Even with the temperature and the defroster blower on high, layers of ice began creeping across the windshield.  Then there were a couple of patches on the road that were sketchy.  Tractor trailer trucks either blew past us at normal highway speed or crept slowly along on the hills as the daylight started to fade.

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Any Missourian will tell you that snow is something a driver can reason with; ice is not. With this in mind,  we decided to listen to nature and stopped to spend the night at hotel rather than risk the ice.

Sometimes the To Do List needs to balance with the To Live list.  Instead of a white-knuckled drive home, I was able to spend time with a friend, enjoying a meal and relaxing with a bottle of wine, talking and laughing over YouTube videos and even getting a little work done, too.  (Yes, technology manages to be a part of my nature-scape.)

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This was one of my favorite exhibits of the day.  The jellyfish looked like floating creatures in a lava lamp.  So mesmerizing to watch.

I’m not sure John Muir envisioned the world as a place where getting a glimpse at nature takes as much effort as it does, but surely he saw how appreciating it needed to be intentional.   I doubt he would have guessed how much competition would be out there in our modern-day lives.  On most days I must admit I am guilty of being more dependent on my phone to get me through my day than a spectacular view of mysterious-looking jellyfish.

Thank goodness there are some fantastic nature screen savers out there.

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Why Former Stay-At-Home Moms Can Be Rock Star Employees

IMAG0656After “staying home” about twelve years with my three kids when they were younger, I decided to gingerly test the job market about seven years ago.  At that point, my kids were all in school and could manage to look after themselves for a few hours without burning down the house.  My logic was that I could earn a little money for the extras, while getting out of the house and re-developing skill sets that could enhance my resume.  The Mommy Track became very real to me as I looked for something to get myself back into the workplace.

I didn’t expect to jump from “Stay At Home Mom” to CEO or anything, especially with my big girl career background being mostly in a niche industry (I had worked in the very heavily-regulated secondary federal student loan market).  When the kids were little I had done odds and ends paid jobs—Assistant Pre-School Teacher, home-based business cosmetics and skin care, some contract work doing computer work—but nothing that made me a stand-out job candidate.   I had also done a lot of non-paid jobs, mostly kid-oriented—coaching, volunteering at church and knee-deep involvement with two Girl Scout troops.  I loved my volunteer work with the kids’ activities, but I was seeking to spend time with people that I would not have to remind to use their indoor voices or sit “crisscross applesauce”.

I ended up working for a little over a year at a Retirement Home as an Activities Assistant.  It was a very fun job for someone like me who loves talking with people and learning about their lives.  I led exercise classes and discussion groups, helped with our facility’s numerous and magnificent parties, bar tended at Happy Hour and learned how to play Euchre with some wonderful people.  I learned a lot about people at that job—mainly that BINGO could be considered a contact sport at times—but the pay wasn’t that great, and the hours were split up in such a way over the week that I felt like I was working much more than 20 hours a week.  So I went back to what I was comfortable with, and ended up working part-time as an Administrative Assistant, focusing on placing past organization and computer “hard” skills on my resume.  It’s a nice gig, Monday through Friday six hours a day, a flexible boss and a very short commute.

Occasionally I’ll take a look at a job website to get a feel for what’s out there.  I’m amazed at how much job searching and applying has changed, not just since my fresh-out-of-college days, but in the last seven years.  Almost all job applications are online and involve uploading documents.  It drives me crazy to painstakingly fill out detailed employment history on an online application when you’re giving them your resume’ anyway.  I understand how it can make a hiring director’s job much easier to have a computer program pre-screen applications searching for specific keywords, but it certainly takes the human out of Human Resources.  When one hasn’t taken the traditional career path, trying to tie a non-job related life experience skill set to a specific career keyword can be frustrating.

There are a lot of women (and men, too) that have taken similar career paths to mine, and I’ve noticed that most of us overlook some notable character traits that come with the Mommy Track territory.  Sure, career websites and other experts tell us to highlight our past career and volunteer knowledge and not to diminish the roles we’ve played in being our own Household Executive.  My personal experience has been that it is easier said than done.  Calling myself my family’s Chief Operating Officer?  I can’t picture that on a resume that gets taken seriously—especially if the person reading it has juggled full-time employment while being Family COO.  It’s not that the strengths of many stay-at-home Moms are exclusive to just those individuals by any means; they are just often not acknowledged as being experience to easily taut while re-entering the workplace.

Often, potential qualities and strengths I’ve seen in others on the Mommy Track aren’t tied to the hot buzzword of the moment, but that’s not to say they are not resume-worthy, timeless assets.  As time distances me from those days in my own life, it’s easier for me now to identify in others some typical skills honed during those years with the kids.  My goal is that perhaps this short list will help others who need to see themselves with new eyes come up with some translatable terminology. I’ll use the title “Former Stay-At-Home Moms” for simplicity’s sake with apologies to all the Dads and others who may be offended because I find writing she/he/his/her on every point cumbersome; feel free to insert the appropriate title and adapt.

#1.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms possess great leadership skills.  “Because I’m the Mom” aren’t just words to be said when avoiding the “Why?” question.  The parent who is organizing schedules, making sure that some sort of nourishment is given throughout the day and deciding who gets to ride shot gun on the way to the grocery store can’t be a follower.  She has to be able to make a decision, execute it and be willing to re-visit later if necessary.  That’s not to say her authority won’t be questioned, so a strong backbone is required.  Kids like to push limits, especially when they are tired, hungry or miss their favorite Spongebob episode.  The ability to identify every-changing needs in varying situations, as well as coming up with an action plan and following through are all vital skills.

#2.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms must be resourceful and think creatively.  Anybody who has ever tried to keep the younger set occupied day after day in an environment that’s safe and allows for learning opportunities has to be able to be flexible and work with what’s available.  Sometimes that means the Halloween costume might be a simple green shirt with brown pants and drawn on beard-scruff so “Shaggy” can go trick-or-treating at the last minute.  It can also mean making sure Mom’s “It” during Hide and Seek so she can throw a load of laundry in while actively “seeking” the kids in their hiding spots.

#3.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms develop insightful diplomatic and people-skills.  What job can’t use the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint?  The ability to read and understand people’s motives while remaining neutral and calm is part of all parenting.  Some are better at it than others…sometimes I was better at the insight part than the being calm part.  A person who can learn to referee squabbling siblings diplomatically can transfer that ability to clients and fellow employees.

#4.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms know how to research and learn.  Why do dogs circle around their bed before they lie down?  Why is the sky blue?  Who was Genghis Kahn?  Shh…don’t tell the kids, but parents don’t always know EVERYTHING.  Sometimes we need to research an answer (thanks, Wikipedia, YouTube and Google).  What is most fulfilling about this kind of learning is that sometimes it leads to producing lifelong interests for our children, or even ourselves.  The ability to find accurate answers quickly is a job skill that crosses every industry.

#5.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms understand being realistic and “The Big Picture”.  It can be hard for all of us to visualize how the small steps we take today towards our goals really do produce results when those results seem so far in the future.  Anyone who has ever been a Girl Scout Troop Cookie Manager knows that rounding up everything needed to get the troop’s cookie-selling is not for the faint of heart.  It requires patience, the ability to chase down parents for required signatures on documents and orders, and oftentimes a large vehicle for cookie hauling.  In the moment it is hard to see how this does anything but add a mere quarter per box to troop funds.  Big Picture thinking is required to see the true impact of that thankless job—girls who learn how to set financial goals and follow through with them by marketing and selling a product.  Being able to see beyond the here and now towards a goal that’s not guaranteed is certainly an asset in today’s immediate gratification world.

I’m positive that not all of these in my list apply to everyone who has left paid employment to raise a family; however, it’s a good start for those who may have forgotten that what they do can translate into tangible job skills at some point.  While I’m not sure how to best encapsulate these observations into a blanket-statement, bulleted list on an individual’s resume so they make it past the pre-screen, they are definitely points to be made in cover letters and interviews and can be tailored.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent that doesn’t happen to be looking for employment outside the home right now, may it encourage you to know that these years do matter.  Involve yourself with the community and your family—and don’t forget to work in time for your personal pursuits.  The Mommy Track doesn’t have to be a separate path from career building—consider it the scenic route.

Choosing Your Battles

cracked egg

The young mother cast a weary glance my way over the top of the squirmy toddler’s head.  She moved the bag of chips towards the back of the cart, just out of reach from those stretched-out fingers.  The little boy’s lip stuck out, but he didn’t shriek or cry.  I gave her a sympathetic smile as we passed and we went our separate ways in the grocery store.  I’d been there once.  Another Mom vs. Child battle won!

When the kids were little and I found myself exasperated with them, my husband would remind me to pick my battles.  It was hard.  I wanted them – expected them – to just behave how I wanted them to all the time simply because I was “The Mom”.  When they didn’t listen to my logic (good, sound, Mom-logic!) I felt like minor situations escalated from disagreement to battles to war in the space of a few short minutes.  The problem wasn’t a matter of me picking a battle.  The problem was that I thought three-year-olds would listen to reason.  Ha!

One of the things that I had to learn was that I didn’t have to win every battle to win the war.  Again, it was tough lesson.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted the kids to know I was right.  I wanted the kids to be little grown-ups in those tiny little bodies and see how I only had their best interest at heart.  The most selfish part of that equation was that I also didn’t want others to judge me as being a bad parent.  After all, if my kid had on a horrible, mis-matched outfit at pre-school it was obviously because I was the worst Mom ever, right?

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d just never be able to go in public again—especially restaurants and stores.  I suppose if that were true, I’d have a few more dollars in the bank account right now.  When I found out Erin was on the way, one of the first thoughts I had was, How in the world will I be able to keep track of three kids in the grocery store?  Someone’s gonna lose a finger…or an eye! 

When I look back now, especially when I see people in the store with their kids, I have a completely different take on toddlers and parents. I am quick to NOT judge, because I’ve been in their shoes.  I’ve had my exhausted kid scream about how much he hated me in the parking lot because we had to leave the dance party at the elementary school when it was getting late and his sisters were tired.  I’ve been the mom whispering through clenched teeth about how they were going to really “get it” when we got home if I got any more sass.  I have had to go to the store manager and alert them to the egg on the floor and apologize because my kid grabbed one out of the container and chucked it in two seconds when I opened it to check for cracked eggs.  Been there, done that.

All in all, my kids were actually pretty well-behaved youngsters in public.  It’s just that my memory doesn’t recall the times we peacefully strolled the aisles or sat at a restaurant.  I can even laugh a little bit at those battles won and lost.  Ultimately, we all won a little bit, because with one in college and two now in high school no one is throwing eggs at the grocery store and their clothes match quite well.  They even give me fashion advice.  I sometimes bribe my kids with promises of gum purchases to get them to go to the store with me now.

I can’t say I saw this mother with the chip-loving toddler and eyed her with envy.  Those years were not always easy, but I cherish them now.  We look back on those once-exasperating moments and laugh a little when the kids actually remember certain incidents and tell me what was going through their minds at the time.  Those years were a rite of passage in the journey of Motherhood, and now it’s definitely in a different stage, where our trips to Costco involve me trying to get out of the store without indulging in the frozen yogurt sundaes with the kids at the end of the trip—a battle rarely won.  And that’s a whole new war.

Running the Race: Erin’s First Half Marathon

Erin at me at Finish 4-2016

Erin and I after finishing the GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis

When you tell people who don’t enjoy running that you are training for and running a race, you usually get one of two reactions:  A response of total disdain for running, or someone who thinks it’s great that you do it, even if it’s not their cup of tea.   I did not start running until I was in my late thirties, so to see my daughter, Erin tackling training for a half marathon at her age brings out my Momma Pride.  Before I started running, I couldn’t imagine how people managed to trudge through that first mile, let alone three miles for a 5K.  Erin completed her first half marathon last week at the tender age of 14 at the GO! Half Marathon/Marathon in St. Louis.  She runs faster than I do, so other than being at the starting corral together, I did not get to run the 13.1 miles with her, but as I lagged behind, running those same streets in St. Louis, I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about during those miles.  Personally, besides realizing Left Knee was not happy this run, I was worried we were going to get caught in a nasty thunderstorm.

Running those long training runs, there is a special magic that happens to your body and your mind.  Scientifically, we know there are endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones, released that give us a “runner’s high” and help us cope with stress.  When I run with a friend or running group, the magic factor is boosted even more.  My running partner, who is also one of my best friends, has said we solve all the world’s problems on our long runs.  We also say that we could probably increase our speed if we’d shut up a bit, but then it wouldn’t be as much for us—such a trade-off.  Our training with Erin allowed her to always get a few more miles in than we did, as she’d run ahead at a faster pace and needed to circle back to meet up with us.  Thankfully, she has some friends to run with who challenge her to up her pace on the shorter runs.

Running this half was bittersweet.  My running partner, the one who solves all the world’s problems with me while we run together, had a family tragedy happen the week before the race that shook us all to our very core.  The event is too raw and too personal to share here on a blog, but she was not able to run with us.  We chose to run in honor of her loved one, which made this run very personal for Erin and the other runners in our group, and she was on our mind and in our hearts the entire way.

Erin and I both agreed that when you first start a long race, the excitement and the crowd gets us in the mindset that could keep up the running for hours.  Conversation flows easily, in spite of all that heavy breathing, as you check off the miles.  At The GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis, runners get to run over the bridge into Illinois, and the view of the Arch as you come back into Missouri is stunning.  Many people stop to take selfies with the Arch in the background.  I chose to just lift up my camera and shoot a picture, minus my sweaty face.  I thought it turned out great, considering I didn’t come to a stop to take it.

Scene from bridge at GO 4-2016

Normally it’s around Mile 8 that I start to ask myself, “How much longer?”  This race, it was closer to halfway through Mile 9, which is the part of the race that goes through the Anheuser-Busch brewery area.  We trudged on through past Soulard Market and onto Mile 11, where they were handing out little chocolate candies from Crown Candy Restaurant (another longstanding St. Louis landmark).  As my friend, Tina, and I approached Mile 12, I kept thinking about how the end of the race was so close, and the hills seemed especially steep.  The crowds cheering along the side of the course gave us words of encouragement about the end being “just around the corner”.  It was more like around a corner, and another and another.  Then a really long straight stretch.  In other words, the last mile kind of felt like five miles.  But the finish felt fantastic and miraculously the rain held off until we had walked back to our hotel.

Erin ice cream at Go! 4-2016

There are times when I feel like a snail running these longer races—if a snail had creaky knees—and wonder what keeps me motivated to do another one.  One look at my daughter and I am reminded of our talks during our training runs over toenails, running shoes and how good it feels after you’ve accomplished a goal you’ve set your mind to.  I see her excited about meeting up with her running pals, and her determination to improve and finish what she starts.  So I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving it up any time soon, even if I am riding in her tailwind.

In the Great Battle of Head vs. Heart…

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. –C.S. Lewis

Tyler in his hockey days

This past Friday, we dropped off our first born at college four hours away. I’ve been excited for him ever since we first toured the campus, seeing before him a bright future filled with so much opportunity. We shopped for dorm items, we attended all the events related to the upcoming school year—he even declared (tentatively) a major. But a few weeks back, my body betrayed me. Not my whole body, no, not that. My sly little heart. Because while my head knows that this is a normal and natural part of growing up, my heart wants to hold on to that little boy that snuggled deep inside of it and protect and nurture him forever.

Did I mention my heart is nocturnal?

In the nights just before his scheduled move, I would close my eyes and instead of falling asleep, would see a movie-quality montage of the last 18 years of my (his) life. Those sleepless but joyful nights of babyhood, him in his little soccer uniform at the first game. The time he peed on the tree in our front yard in front of God and everyone, because he was “watering it”. Climbing the steep steps of the school bus when he started kindergarten. When he learned to ride a bike without training wheels because our friend’s daughter could do it, and he didn’t want to be outdone. His hockey games. Then football games. His obsession with golf. Playing Rock Band with his sisters. Driving in his first car. Buying his first suit. Little clips of time swirling behind those closed eyes that couldn’t hold back those pesky tears.

I’ve never been on this side of life before. The letting go part. Sure, you are letting them go a little bit every single day of their life with those milestone moments—as well as the sneakier every day ones that creep in. For eighteen years he’s lived under our roof, leaving a trail of empty glasses and Pop Tart wrappers in his wake. We’ve ensured he had food in his belly and a roof over his head, went to school, kept decent hours, grew his faith and knew our unconditional love. It’s such a strange sensation, this mixture of pride because we’ve raised a young man ready to start his life as a young adult, with the realization that since we’ve done a pretty good job at that, our part is well, kind of finished. And it makes me feel nostalgic and yes, a whole lot of sad.

I am smiling through those tears this morning. Because I am proud of our son. And I know that he is going down a path towards being his most awesome self. It’s all just starting for him—this future so full of promise and opportunity. It’s exciting! My head tells me a new normal will settle in over our home, a normal where our adult child is now also a part of our inner circle of friends. While it is true that it’s the end of an era, it’s also the beginning of a new one.

And my heart likes the sound of that.

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Let the Next Chapter Begin

Tyler (right) and one of his good friends at the Graduation ceremony.

Tyler (right) and one of his good friends, Jeff, at the Graduation ceremony.

At the end of May, Tyler graduated from high school and we celebrated with a party a few weekends ago.  Thankfully, after a week of continuous rain, we dodged a bullet and had a dry day for it.  We needed to put down a couple of bales of straw purchased at the last minute so the backyard volleyball court didn’t turn into mud volleyball.  Other than being the typical Midwest hot and humid, it was a great day for an outside party.

This past weekend, we visited his college campus for Freshman First Day; a day to meet Academic advisors, finalize schedules and explore campus.  As we settled in at the hotel the night before, I realized that it was at Freshman Orientation at the University of Missouri that Darrell and I first met almost 26 years ago.  I tried to remember what my parents had been like back then, but honestly I couldn’t remember very much other than they came with me.  The main thing I remember from that day was the reality that I was going to have a heavy course load that first semester and I thought that blonde guy who sat next to me at the Orientation was really cute.  I had a boyfriend from high school at the time, and had no idea that cute boy would eventually become my husband. (Let me tell ya about it sometime—it’s a great story.)

I’m not sure why it came as a surprise to me when I was reminded that our firstborn is the same age that we were when we met.  With everything going on these days, I hadn’t had time to process that our little boy was on the brink of adulthood.  Yes, the kid who can’t keep track of where his car keys and shoes are most of the time is moving four hours away where he will be in charge of himself completely.  While I know that we will miss him doing Tyler-esque things like walking around the house, strumming his guitar and bugging his sisters with impromptu songs about whatever it is they’re doing, I can’t help but be excited for him as he starts this new chapter in life.  Where he has trepidation about making all the right decisions, I see nothing but a blank slate of potential.  I’m not so old that I don’t remember the uncertainty of being 18, but I wish he knew that when it’s all said and done, he’ll look back at this time and wish he’d savored it more instead of wishing it away to be an adult in the working world.

When you’re 18, your family, high school and the people you’ve been in school with over the past few years are truly your realm of experience.  For many, college is the first point in life where you step into your own.  It’s a time for learning more about yourself and how you fit into this big, wide world.  You meet people with personalities and ideas that you may have never been exposed to before.  It can be a little intimidating, but ultimately shapes you into the person you were meant to be.

I am convinced that the timing for a child’s (ahem, I mean young adult’s) departure for college correlates perfectly with his parents’ patience (aka tolerance) level for having another almost-adult present in the home.  Little things Tyler does, like leaving shoes all over the kitchen—nothing new—seem to get under my skin a little more than they used to.  I think it goes both ways, because I feel like Tyler gets annoyed with us about things, too.  In these waning days before he heads off to school across the state, I look at my son with a little more tenderness.  I overlook the empty Pop Tart wrappers he leaves around the house and grumble a little less when he forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher.  (I said a LITTLE!)  I find myself giving in a little more often when he asks if we can do breakfast for dinner.

At the heart of it all, I’m proud of all he’s accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

The happy graduate with me and his dad, that cute blonde boy from Freshman Orientation all those years ago.

The happy graduate with me and his dad, that cute blonde boy from Freshman Orientation all those years ago.

Wanted: Antacids and Patience Please

Last Monday, the first day of Spring Break, I took Emily to take the written part of her driving test to get her learner’s permit.  Somehow this snuck up on me.  Even though she turned fifteen a few weeks ago, has had the book to study and has talked quite often about getting her driving permit, the reality of what this actually means hadn’t hit me.  Until that afternoon.

Driving from the testing location to the license office, it occurred to me all that comes with teaching a child to drive:  trying to keep gasps quietly to myself, death grips on the handrest, and questioning my judgment on where and when to not let her drive.  Target’s parking lot is not for the faint of heart!  Then there’s all that comes with when they have their full license and are driving when you’re NOT in the car.  And here I thought I was done giving up sleep when they started sleeping through the night!

I like to think of myself as a laid back person—but I’ll be the first to admit that does not hold true when it comes to riding as a passenger in the car with the kids.  That is where I become the Control Freak from Hell.  Tyler’s been driving on his own for nearly two years now, and I still grab the handrest, even though he drives just fine.  Maybe it’s the memories of how they drove playing Mario Cart when they were little.  Or the times they ran into mailboxes, parked cars and sometimes each other on their bikes.  I know, I shouldn’t hold that against them, but those visions must lie dormant somewhere in my sub-conscious.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Tyler was behind the wheel for the first time.  He had two vehicles to choose from to learn on—a 6-speed manual transmission or a full-sized Ford Expedition.  Neither one were very easy to start with, but he began driving with my huge truck.  I can’t remember exactly how I learned to drive, but at least I had a small car.  It seemed like I knew the basics before I actually had a permit.  When we were kids my dad would let us sit on his lap and “drive” on the gravel roads surrounding the sand plant.  I don’t remember having to ask how to put the car in drive, or how the gas pedal worked.

I do remember taking my driver’s test.  I had the lady with the shocking red-orange hair and matching bright orange lipstick.  The one the older kids at school warned us younger ones you didn’t want to give you your test.  I had my mom’s ’86 Mercury.  The steering column had the turn signal, horn and high beams all on the same “blinker stick”.  Up and down for the blinkers, push in for the horn, and pull forward for the brights.  Before we started, I was asked to demonstrate various functions of the car.  The instructor asked me to put on the high beams.  I’d never used them before, but I saw “PULL” on the stick, so I did.  I pulled the turn signal right out of the steering wheel!  Flustered, I tried to put it back on, resulting in my honking the horn long and loud several times.  I’m surprised I didn’t fail right then, but she allowed me to drive off the lot into traffic.  About the third or fourth turn, the blinker stick fell off onto the floorboard, leaving me with a little nub about two inches long to use for the turn signal.  To this day, I think I passed only due to this woman’s pity.  I’m sure that my test made her top ten of hilarious idiot driving test stories to tell.

So now you know I really have no business judging my kids’ lack of driving knowledge.  I had some humble beginnings.  Learning to drive a manual transmission threw me a curveball.  And any passengers almost through the windshield.  My dad probably has more gray hair having taught me to drive a stick, but we survived.

So yes, I’m a hypocrite.  I still can’t help but be a little nervous giving up control of the wheel to someone who describes putting the car in drive as “putting the line on the ‘D’”.  Luckily I’m married to someone who has nerves of steel and a lot more patience as the parent Driver Instructor than I do.  I remind myself to keep a sense of humor about it all, because in the end, having another driver to run errands does come in handy.  I just hope that by the time she’s driving solo, it will be for milk, bread and eggs, not antacids.

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