No More Driving Miss Daisy

By Lisa Sugarman

So I’m standing at the edge of a precipice. The same one my mother stood at before me. It’s so high I’m not sure I can make out the bottom. My toes are hanging off the edge and little rocks are starting to break away and fall under my feet. It’s a long way down. A long way. My heart is pounding in my chest, like it does when you’re confronting someone about something upsetting and you’re trying to keep yourself calm. I can hear the beating in my head. It’s so loud. I keep forgetting to breath.

I know I have to jump. I have no choice. I know it’s going to change everything. I know the landing might be ugly but I have to move forward. I know I do. It’s the only direction I can go. I’m exhilarated and petrified at the same time. Knowing that millions have gone before me and survived isn’t giving me as much comfort as I thought it would. But I need to stay positive.

I force myself to lean forward. Momentum is taking over now. The wheels are in motion. It’s time. I draw in one, last deep breath. I shut my eyes and step forward. Then I hear it. The voice is faint. I hear it again. It’s louder now. “May I help you?” I look up, startled. “I said, may I help you?” I nod. I must look confused. Bewildered, maybe. I ask where I should go from here. The woman points to a sign over her shoulder. I read it quickly, but my mind is racing so it’s hard to focus. I finally make out the words. “Learner’s Permit Test Registration.” I’m airborne now. I’m in freefall.

Alright, so maybe I took a little bit more creative license here than I needed to. But when I’ve imagined what it’s going to feel like later this afternoon at the RMV when I take Riley for the real test, that’s pretty much how it was playing out in my mind.

As parents, we’re constantly hopping from stage to stage with our kids. We breeze right through the little ones, like dropping their spoon every time we turn around or cruising from couch to chair to table. And we knuckle down and dig in for the more challenging ones like learning to ride a bike or how to nicely ask the boy next to you to borrow his pencil sharpener instead of punching him in the face and grabbing it. Clearly, some phases are more challenging than others. There are those that require constant helicopter parenting, like biting, spitting and hair pulling, while others are way less complicated like reminding them to zip up their fly before leaving the house. All of them, though, take a certain measure of TLC. And thankfully for us, the range is vast so we usually have time to inhale.

I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again … this parenting thing we do is a labor of love, for sure. I mean our mettle is constantly being tested with all the different hoops we have to jump through, and ‘nimble’ is usually the word of the day. Of all the phases and stages, though, this driving stage is a real curve ball, probably because it’s hard to know how to feel about it.

Ok, so my days of driving Miss Daisy are almost over. On the one hand I’m thrilled that I won’t have to pack a bag lunch and my book and live out of my car as much anymore during the week, driving my kids everywhere and back 50 times a day. Although between you and me, I love those drives, especially the ones when they all start talking and forget that I’m there. That’s how I get all my insider information. But on the other hand, I’ll have plenty of time to take that Science of Superheroes class through the University of California at Irvine that’s been on my list. There’s always an upside.

Now look, I’m supremely confident that Riley will be a good driver. (God, I hope you’re listening. Please be listening.) We’ve taken her to the parking lot behind the temple to practice at least a half dozen times so far and she’s doing great. Granted, that’s a wide open space with no obstacles and an unlimited turning radius, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? Plus she’s secretly been driving the golf cart at Kelly Greens since she was 14. And now that we’ve all but forgotten the time she two-wheeled the cart around the 13th hole, it’s all good. Everyone deserves a Mulligan, right?

I wish I could say I had some stellar advice for my chicklet, as I send her out into the wild, but I don’t. Sorry. The reality is, it’s a different world now than it was when they put my permit in my hot little 16-year-old hands. More distractions. More cars on the road. More to worry about. Frankly, I’m not even sure I should still be on the road considering how much driving has changed. But I suppose, like everything, it’s all relative to the world they’re growing up in. Their brains have somehow learned to accept all the chaos around them. And I guess we should be grateful that their generation has evolved to this higher state of being.

So I guess the only thing for me to do is say a Hail Mary and cross my fingers. Tight. Oh wait. Damn. I’m a Jew. So no can do. Hail Marys, I’ve heard, are nontransferable. No exceptions. Oh hell.

Well, under the circumstance, I guess I need to punt. So here goes. Keep ‘em at 10:00 and 2:00, babe. Ten and two. And remember, the AAA card is in the glove box. Go get ‘em, champ.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead. Read and discuss all her columns at OR read her blog at


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