In 2004, we bought our Honda Element and I guess it wasn’t too much later that we found out that Melissa was pregnant with our first child.  Fast forward to the next summer and Hadley was born.  We brought her home from the hospital in the Element and I still remember being so suddenly freaked out by every driver on road now that I had this seemingly fragile infant buckled in the backseat in her car seat.

That infant turned into a child who’s turned into a teenager and like every parent you’ll talk to, life has seemingly moved in fast forward.  We now have a fifteen-year-old…with her driver’s permit. 

Hadley’s actually been driving for a couple of years now around the backroads and trails of my wife’s family property where we live.  She’s always been careful and understood from our first lessons the responsibility of what driving is.

We’ve continued to practice on the many dirt roads and seldom-used secondary roads that surround our out in the country home. For the last year or so she’d ask if she could go for a drive and might be gone for an hour slow cruising around the field in our front yard or driving through the woods to the pond and the fields down there.  Practice makes perfect and it’s been neat to see her gain confidence in her driving.  The Element’s been a great car to learn on.

The toughest part about raising a teenager is that the rules of parent and child engagement are in some sort of weird and constant flux. Friends, homework, music and her mobile phone take up more of her time, and the nights of her nestling down between us in our bed to talk or watch a movie have been traded for her closing her bedroom door for Facetime conversations with friends. This hasn’t been easy for us, especially mom, to adjust to.

What we’ve found though, when Hadley asks, “Can we go for a drive?”,  this means let’s go for a drive to practice but also what inevitably happens, we talk. Hadley behind the wheel breaks down a teenage barrier of silence and the hour or so of driving together is a window into everything that is going on in her life. It’s also a time where she’ll listen to where mom and dad are coming from with things as well. I guess driving is some sort of weird therapy for both of us and a flashback to when I was “Daddy” (and she seemingly needed me a whole lot more) instead of “Father” (with a heavy dose of snarkiness mixed in).

So, I’m going to continue to go on these drives, no matter if I’m tired from a long day at work, in the middle of something, or ready for bed.  Sure, I don’t need a milkshake at 9:00 p.m. but if she needs to go for a drive, I’m riding shotgun every time.

We’re ever closer to 300,000 miles with our Element and if you haven’t read the rest of the posts in this series, circle back to the ‘The Road to 300K’ HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.  

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