Honestly, part of me wanted her to fail.
Any parent will understand this. Anyone whose ever watched something slowly slip away will understand. With each milestone -- each license, each new grade, each birthday -- is one more indisputable sign that the little girl whose hair I used to put in pigtails when she was two is growing up.
But who was I kidding? This is a kid who rarely fails, who rarely leaves anything to chance, who practices things dozens, hundreds, thousands of times to make sure she's giving herself the best possible chance to succeed.
So I knew that when the day came when she'd take her driver's test, she'd pass. Most kids pass, of course (this is far from a towering achievement.) But it's an achievement that is possibly more important to a 16-year-old than any other. It means freedom. It means going to the mall when you want. It means not having to wait for Dad to finish reading the paper to run over to a friend's house. Freedom.
And for some parents it's a day of cheering. It means that, instead of hauling the boy off to baseball practice, we can toss her the keys and say, "Here, you do it." And I probably will, too. But I'd give every convenience back and then some if there was some way to keep her from growing up.
Readers of my blog might remember something I wrote a year ago or so, back when we first started the process of learning to drive. We'd go up to the big parking lots at Minnesota State University and just drive around, really slowly, for a while. I remember when we pulled in, switched seats, and she sat behind the driver's wheel. She looked terrified, like she thought the wheel was going to jump out and bite her if she moved too quickly. Now that seems so long ago, and so many hours driving around town with my little girl.
She probably didn't see it this way, but I saw every one of those times as a gift, an hour to hang out with my favorite girl, listen to her laugh and talk about all the funny things that happened at school that day. To her it was time spent learning how to drive. To me it was ... I don't know. It's hard to put into words, really. And now it's over. She's not likely to want to just go for a drive with Dad anymore.
When I'm with her, I feel like she's safer, like if a car careens out of control in our direction, I can somehow do something to stop it from hitting her. But as I sat here today worrying about her driving alone, I realized that there was never anything I could have done to stop that careening car. And there's nothing I can do to stop her from growing up, either.
So I'll leave you with this: Look out for my little girl you guys. I'm sure she'll be looking out for you.