License to Drive

The day had finally arrived: July 7, 2017. Our daughter was turning 16 years old and life as we knew it would change.

As my husband and I sat in the living room with her the evening of her birthday (yes, she passed with flying colors after being tested on her “driving” skills for maybe five minutes; I think I now know why there are a ton of bad drivers in Cleveland), going over our rules along with Tennessee’s, I started having various flashbacks. While my husband was talking to our daughter, it was as though I was back in the kitchen of my parents’ house when I turned 16.

You will keep your grades up, they said. You will let us know always where you are going. You will let us know who you will be with while out. Your curfew will be based on each situation. Your car will be the first thing to go if you go against the rules. Etc., etc., etc.

As all these car rules came flashing back at me from 18 years ago, I started hearing the same words (in addition to some new ones) coming from my husband and me to our daughter.

You will keep your grades up, we said. You will not be texting and driving. You will let us know always where you are going. You will let us know who you will be with while out. No one can drive your car but you and us. Your curfew will be based on each situation. Your car will be the first thing to go if you go against the rules. Etc., etc., etc.

Which leads to me another aspect of parenting I didn’t think would happen; it’s called the: “You think you will, but you won’t” parenting aspect.

You think you will, but you won’t.

You think when your child turns 16 that you will be a “cooler” parent than your parents were to you. But, you won’t. Honestly, I think I am harder on my daughter than my parents were on me. (To my besties in high school: can you believe that?!)

I told myself I would let my child have some freedom when he or she was 16, but I am going back on my word. If anything, I am asking where she is every five seconds. I have her text me as soon as she arrives at her destination. Any time she goes anywhere, I want to know where. And I don’t just rely on her — I have her friends’ parents on speed dial. When she texts me that she has arrived at a friend’s house, I check with the parent, too. (I know; it’s almost psycho.)

But, here’s the thing. You think you will trust your child, but you won’t.

Because everything you did when you were 16 comes right back, too. Just like you had those memories of your parents telling you what was and wasn’t allowed, you also have flashbacks of ways you tried “getting around” the rules. Therefore, you start punishing your child for something she hasn’t even done yet. You assume she is breaking the rules as soon as she leaves the driveway. You assume she is going somewhere other than where she tells you. So not only are you driving your child crazy, her being able to drive is also driving you crazy!

You think you will, but you won’t.

And it isn’t just with our daughter now that she is a licensed driver; the same is true with our son. Before and during my pregnancy, I promised myself, my husband, and anyone I talked to that my son would never sleep in our bed. And I mean never! Well, let me have you guess exactly where my son sleeps every night. Go ahead. Say it. Yup, in our bed. I am currently in a co-sleeping situation.

I feel like there is no end in sight. There’s no end to me worrying and checking in on my daughter every five seconds. No end to my son sleeping in my bed. And no end to me constantly proving to myself that I will do the exact opposite of what I “thought” I would do.

So, remember, the next time you think you will be doing, saying, or parenting differently, you probably won’t.

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