Today marks the end of an era. I will no longer be the daily chauffeur for my son. He will no longer need me to drive him to drills, pick him up afterward, take him to fitness, or schlep him to school. He is now a licensed driver.
And, given that he is my last child at home and the last to drive, that means my time is now my own. That means I can book appointments, make lunch dates, and whatever else I want to do on my time-frame without worrying that I’ll be finished in time to pick up my son and take him where he needs to be.
That also means every time he gets behind the wheel, I will get that little clutch in my stomach – you know the one – and worry like crazy until he calls to let me know he’s arrived wherever safe and in one piece. Honestly, I haven’t missed that these past 3 years since we’ve had a teen driver living at home!
But, it’s all part of growing up and letting go, something I try really hard to be good at but still could use lots of improvement. For now, I will be grateful that my son seems to have a very good head on his shoulders. I will trust him to be careful on the road and to remember everything my husband and I (and the driving instructors!) have taught him. And, I will enjoy regaining ownership of my daily schedule even though I will definitely miss the daily car chatter with my son.
The end of an era, yes, but, hopefully, the beginning of something new and exciting for both of us.
This week, I’m visiting my parents in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I grew up. Yesterday, I had the chance to go watch my 74-year-old dad play tennis against his long-time friend and rival in what has become a once- or twice-weekly ritual. These two guys have been competitors since childhood. They have also been friends since childhood. They played against each other in the juniors and with each other in college. Yes, the level of tennis has changed over the years. Neither one moves too well these days. Neither one has the piercing groundstrokes that once defined their games. And neither one has lost the desire to win when facing the other across the net.
On the court next to my dad and his friend/opponent was an 18-year-old high school senior who is preparing to play Division 3 tennis for Sewanee University in the fall. We struck up a conversation. I asked him if he knew one of the seniors on my son’s high school team, Danny. He did. Not only did he know Danny, though, but he told me they have been friends since the 10-and-unders and have been competing against each other ever since. He went on to tell me about their most recent match, in detail, describing how the 3-hour-and-45-minute match in the extreme summer heat and humidity had taken his last reserves so that, even though he won, he went on to lose handily in the next round of the tourney. He also told me what a great guy Danny is and how excited he is that Danny’s getting to play D1 tennis next year. He is truly happy for – and proud of – his friend.
This is what junior tennis can do – it can create life-long friendships that originate on the courts but extend way beyond them. My dad has recently re-connected with several of the other guys who played with him at Tulane. They rehash old matches, tell their “war stories”, and reminisce about their glory days. The friendships that started on some green clay courts 60+ years ago have survived graduate school, marriage, children, divorce, illness, and tragedy. I hope my son has these same stories of friendship to share with his kids and grandkids some day.