I spent last weekend with my daughter, her husband and my two grandsons in the magical mountain town of Tapalpa. It was an excellent trip, with fun shopping, a quaint hotel, the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, and scenery completely different from the cityscape of Guadalajara that I’m getting used to.
But coming home, squeezed between two car seats, wearing a seatbelt that wouldn’t let me move forward more than two inches, I found myself wondering how I had ended up there. Not there as in Tapalpa or Mexico, but there in the backseat, relegated to what felt like sitting at the children’s table. When had I turned the driving over to my daughter? And how had it happened without me realizing it?
I taught both of my daughters how to drive. We kicked up gravel in empty high school parking lots, threatened the bark of trees on the curved and hilly roads of a state park, and finally picked up speed on stretches of the Lincoln Trail Highway, which was basically a paved country road with little traffic.
My younger daughter still laughs about me telling her that there’s never a good reason to pass someone on a two-lane highway. I’m pretty sure I made an exception for tractors, but she disputes even that.
They eventually mastered both automatics and stick shifts, aced their driver’s ed courses at school, and walked out of the motor vehicle bureau with licenses on their 16th birthdays.
Those licenses gave them a new freedom (and me new worries), but seldom changed who was behind the wheel when the two or three of us were in the car together. When we took off on shopping trips looking for prom dresses or road trips to far away colleges, I was almost always the one driving.
But not on this trip to Tapalpa. And not on any other recent trips either, I realized. I was no longer the one who picked up the keys and automatically climbed into the driver’s seat.
It’s not that I was totally unhappy about sitting in the back seat on those mountainous cliffs with switchback curves that took us to and from Tapalpa.
Indeed, it was somewhat of a comfort to be able to close my eyes on the stretches where the guardrails disappeared and “in memoriam” markers rose up. It was more like that club that you don’t really want to join. You still want to be asked.
And no one asked me if I wanted to take my turn at driving.
As parents, we all go through this. The first time our offspring beats us at golf or tennis. The year they buy us more expensive Christmas presents than we buy them. The Thanksgiving dinner that’s at their house and we’re not even asked to bring anything. The day we realize we haven’t proofread anything for them lately. Times when we realize that something has shifted in the relationship.
Something we’re not completely comfortable with and not always ready for.
It’s a little like what I might have felt if I had been the one driving those mountainous roads to Tapalpa. A little queasy about the changing terrain and the curves that seem to come too quickly.
Jeanne is a transplanted Illinoisian who arrived in Guadalajara hoping for siestas. She was sad to discover that siestas are a thing of the past, but is still finding lots to love about Mexico.