My son can legally drive a vehicle. Not just any vehicle, but a manual transmission hatchback that has been my husband’s commuter car for the last five years.

Last time I looked my son was driving his matchbox school bus on carefully crafted track around the house. Now he’s taking a car on roads with stop signs, turn lanes, potholes and … OTHER DRIVERS. Sometime in the last ten years he’s grown taller and stronger than me and old enough to drive. Surely just last week I was teaching him to ride a bike and wasn’t it just yesterday he started middle school?

When did driving a car become acceptable? When did he start driving this road now traveled?

He’s my baby, my first born. My first teenager and my only son. He’s my child, and technically still just that – a child. Not an full fledged adult capable of voting or making legal decisions for himself.

Yet I have to let him leave the house alone – with car keys. I need to let him drive off into the world and navigate the county highways into town to get to school, to work, to football practice. Day or night, rain or shine, he will be capable of getting himself around.

Am I struggling with him driving or is it something more?

The independence he exerts through driving is just the beginning of the inevitable separation that will occur in the next few years. He will leave us for college. He will eventually choose a job possibly in a city on the other side of the country or overseas. He is going to grow up and leave the nest. I won’t have the luxury of knowing he’s downstairs most likely fast asleep with music still playing in his ear.

I already miss the chats we’ve shared while I taxi him around. That’s our time – when we get the work of being parent and child done without it feeling like work. We still talk while he drives but it’s shifted from idle conversation to driving instruction. I don’t want to forget that one tip that could save him. I may be compensating, unconsciously, telling him the extra things I hope he translates into every day life through these instructions.

In July when I am required to let him go on his own I will cry a little. And smile a lot. Because as my son drives off on his own he will navigate his world and I will become an observer rather than the participate I am right now.

And it’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.