I remember when my first-born son got his first set of wheels. It was a black truck that he got for a Christmas present. It took him to far away, exotic places like the End of our Driveway and the Next Door Neighbor's House. I could handle him taking off in that truck because I never left his side, as this truck was mom-powered. I spent many hours pushing him around town and had the aching back to prove it.
As he got a little older, he explored a little further - going down the street, sometimes around the corner. Now and then, he'd carry cargo like action figures, Matchbox cars, a jelly sandwich, or a sibling. The truck was converted from mom power to toddler power. I can still see him driving that truck down the sidewalk, his little toddler legs powering the vehicle at breathtaking speeds of .5 mph.
He went off on his own and met neighbors. He stopped along the way and explored, picking dandelions and collecting rocks and sticks. He sometimes stopped at a friend's house and let her have a turn with the truck. Always, he came back home after his little adventure, happy to share his stories of what he'd done and seen along the way. And I'd listen to his tales and admire the treasures (spiders, wood chips, cigarette butts, and handfuls of grass) he'd found along the route, smiling at my little child who was starting to pull away from me and figure out who he was on his own. I knew it was a normal milestone. He was investigating his environment, learning from all he saw and experienced. It was a good thing for a toddler/preschooler to do.
That same child just bought his first set of wheels that actually has an engine. And it will take him much farther than our driveway or the neighbor's front yard. It will take him wherever he wants to go. It will open new worlds to him. It will present him with choices and opportunities. And I won't be there behind him, pushing him on. He'll be on his own.
Now that he has a car, he has a new level of freedom and I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, he's 18 years old, it's time that he break away and have freedom. If he was away at college, I wouldn't be there to monitor his every move. He'd essentially be on his own. He wouldn't have to ask permission to go to the mall or the movies or to hang out with friends. He'd have to make those decisions on his own. Since he's living at home while going to school, however, it's a little different. I sometimes forget he's 18. I sometimes look at him like he's that same little kid in the plastic, foot-powered truck, toddling down the driveway. I maybe, sort of, want to hang onto him and not let him go anywhere because he's my baby and I can't protect him if he's not by my side.
So we're finding a balance of freedom and consideration. Although I have no problem with him taking off to go to the store when he feels like it, and I don't feel like he needs my explicit permission to do every little thing, he is still living in this house and common courtesy dictates that he check in with me and confirm plans before leaving. I want to let him go, yet being a single mom to 6 kids, I sometimes still need him to help out. It's a balancing act and we're figuring it out as we go.
Much like his first Little Tikes truck, this car will take him new places. It will take him to college and a job. It will take him to the store and on dates with his girlfriend. One day, it might even take him to his own wedding. It's conceivable that it could take him to the hospital where he'll bring home his own newborn baby who will grow up and drive a toddler-powered truck down his driveway one day. He'll explore and discover new things along the way. He'll collect items (probably not sticks, rocks, and worms anymore) and memories. And it's all good. That's the way it should be.