A new driver


We are perched on uncomfortable plastic chairs. Extremely uncomfortable.

How do they do that? Is there some Official Supplier of Extremely Uncomfortable Chairs that supplies all government offices?  Is there some risk that we will all just wile away the hours at various government offices if they don’t make us uncomfortable enough to get up and leave (eventually?)

She wears shorts, a simple tee shirt won at middle school track and sensible tennis shoes laced over clean white socks. She put thought into this outfit. She wanted to look presentable. Not frivolous, and like she took the task seriously. Her impossibly long, tan legs are tucked under the chair. She fidgets with the paperwork in her hand. I know she has struggled to break the nail biting habit. I also know that sometimes she still does.


The clerk calls “next” from the back of the room and she jumps straight up out of the chair. Chin up. Shoulders back. She starts toward the counter and turns to me, questioning. You don’t need her the clerk says. She is being factual, not unkind. She doesn’t need her mother for this. I’m not sure what they do. It’s my job to sit and wait. I’m not sure what they do. It’s been 30 years(!) since I had to do this.

My pretty girl is taking her driver’s test today and it’s my job to hold down the plastic chair and wait. They leave the building and a woman sitting across from me says, smiling, “Such a pretty girl.” I thank her in that way that mothers always do, as if I alone am responsible for her good looks. If she’s on my nerves (rarely) she is her father’s child. If we are basking in compliments, she’s mine? I guess one should really say on behalf of the Good Lord and Good Genetics, I thank you. Instead I say what mothers always do “Thank you!”

I sit and I wait. I just did this a year or so ago. Her older brother learned to drive and took his test in this same place. The same nice ladies smile at me from behind the high desks. The same signs are taped to the wall. Then (almost) the same mom taps her foot impatiently and stares out the window into the parking lot.

It seems to me that they should really warn you how often in your parenting journey you will wait on plastic chairs. Preschool parties, kindergarten testing, doctors offices and dance studios. The specialist who checked for asthma, the (numerous) times we waited on x-rays and so many trips to the dentist, I waited in these kind of plastic chairs. It would make a better story if I said I was nervous or on the edge of my seat. I could really turn a phrase with that one.


The truth, however, is that I am not. GirlWonder is a careful and capable driver. She applied herself to driver’s education the way she does to all her studies. She is a good student.

I honestly have no doubt she is going to pass this test. I guess there is some possibility she could fail maneuverability but honestly, I know she won’t. It seems like just moments ago I was holding a chubby toddler sweating the sweet scent of baby shampoo while I dangled my own car keys to keep her amused. She loved to grab at them. She had a Cozy Coupe plastic car and later rode shotgun for endless loops around the driveway with her brother driving a battery operated Jeep.

Today the sun glints off the expanse of glass at the DMV, and she is in the door and in front of me almost before I know it. Her smile is miles wide, and I know without being told that she has passed her driving test. I don’t know if I am ready for this, but the state says she is.

Yesterday’s chubby pink toddler is today’s tall blonde leaning over the counter to sign the paperwork that makes her a full-fledged driver. She’s probably got the most glamorous driver’s license photo of anyone I know.


I am sort of ready to have my baby able to drive. I am kind of OK with her newfound freedom. I absolutely cover her in prayer whenever she leaves with anyone. What I’m struggling with is the reality of yet another reminder that the baby who once happily climbed my legs and grabbed for my car keys, really doesn’t need me to carry her to new adventures anymore.

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