Guest Blog from Katie Kenny Phillips
Hi everyone! I’m recovering from an insane number of hours spent on the deadline for my next book, and I’m delighted to present a guest blog this week. Katie Kenny Phillips has been my senior editor for years, and is also a children’s book author (check out her delightful books here). Having gone through the exact same thing not too long ago, I just had to share her take on the time a parent and teenager spend together as the teen learns to drive. If you are in the middle of those days . . . if you remember those days . . . if you know those days are approaching all too swiftly . . . commit to being present with your child. And maybe grab a Kleenex.
There’s a certain number of hours required to drive with you, my teenage son, before you get your license. FORTY hours. Two thousand four hundred minutes. That’s 144,000 seconds of me in the passenger seat, heart pounding, adrenaline spiking, praying without ceasing. (Jesus, take the wheel.)
After the initial terror of driving for those first few (seconds) (minutes) hours, we settled into a (somewhat?) comfortable routine. For a new driver, you are actually quite good (but slow down!) and for the most part, I feel safe while acting as your plus 1 around the streets of our town.
But I’ve started noticing your own countdown. Only 6 weeks until you get your license. Only 5 weeks until you get your license. Now it’s only 4. Things like “I can’t wait until I can drive on my own!” “I can’t wait to be able to go by myself.” “I can’t wait.” “By myself.”
How did this happen? How did my countdown shift so dramatically, so quickly and yet so slowly? It’s like I’m watching sand slip through an hourglass—those grains of sand seemed infinite until . . . they didn’t.
How is it that I can distinctly recall shoehorning your stubborn little body into a car seat while brushing aside the Cheerios and now you’re opening my door to take my place, readjusting my mirrors to give you a perspective that is not meant for me? And when did you stop liking Cheerios? I cannot seem to recall.
I’ve only just gotten used to these 40 hours, the time I have you captive and engaged. I actually like it now. No, I love it. It’s the one thing we do together where I’m giving you something you want and you’re allowing me to see your process of learning and growing and making mistakes and achieving. I have a front row seat to you—like a celebrity, courtside, watching a sport I’m still trying to understand.
Ah, these 40 hours . . . these are the times you talk to me and with me. This is the time your eyes are on the road but I really get to see you. You tell me the funny thing your teacher said or what happened at practice or you tell me who made what team and I say, “who are they again?” and you groan because you know I need you to remind me that I dropped that kid off one time and remember, he had the broken wrist? I hear about it as if I’m on the inside of a very exclusive club where membership requires my life in your hands. No big deal. And of course, it’s the biggest deal.
These 40 hours put us shoulder to shoulder. I get to see you smiling, so close to me, not just waving goodbye as you head off to practice or out for the evening with your friends. You’re close enough to touch and I’m finding myself squeezing that shoulder or touching your arm to show you we’re connected by more than proximity.
These 40 hours allow me to treat you to donuts and chicken sandwiches and coffees. They cost money and time and produce crumbs but I’m depositing these sweet, small moments into our bank, trusting you’ll somehow know I’m loving you where you are and where I am—in this car for a short, short time. Sometimes love really does look like a slushie.
These 40 hours are the last ones with your football bags and jerseys and equipment and cleats. I believe I’d recognize those smells in a dark alley in the middle of nowhere, a reminder of every early morning, hot bleacher, late night, hoarse voice from cheering. I’m realizing I don’t mind those smells one bit. I never, ever will.
These 40 hours are sometimes filled with laughter—and it reverberates in the car like a sound bath, knocking against the windows and rattling my bones. If only I could bottle that sound, the preciousness of it, I could sell it to mothers everywhere and make millions. But I wouldn’t—I’d give it away for free because I know how desperately moms long to hear it. It would be my ministry. But there are times the car is filled with silence, and I challenge myself to sit in it with you to allow your need for peace to override my need to ask you questions about your day. This quiet is holy and I tell myself it is not wasted.
We’ve got 40 hours, teenage son of mine. Two thousand four hundred minutes. 144,000 seconds. And I want you to know I am cherishing every single one of them.
Katie Kenny Phillips is a children’s book author of multiple titles, including the God, You Make Me Feel board books for toddlers, Jesus Loves Everybody, and her latest picture book with Shaunti Feldhahn, Let’s Find Joy.
Katie also works as senior writer and editor for best-selling author and speaker, Shaunti Feldhahn. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her family (including her teenage driver!) and two ridiculous labradoodles.
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