I remember growing up, the best thing in the world was calling “shotgun!” and beating my sisters to the front seat of the car. The coveted seat next to my mom or dad—seeing the world from the grown-up view, instead of craning my neck around the huge barrel seats of our station wagon, trying to catch a glimpse of the wide world ahead of me.
Somewhere along the way, early in my teen years, I stopped calling shotgun and headed straight for the back. While the view was smaller, it was mine alone. Facing out the rearview with my headphones on, blasting my Europe cassette tape and flexing my independence. And even though the car was full, I felt alone—exactly how I wanted it to be.
Last week, I took the day away from my middle schoolers to enjoy a milestone with my own 16-year-old while he took a retest for the driving test he failed due to a wrong turn down a blizzard-covered one-way street. For the past year, I’ve been relegated to the back seat of the car while my husband patiently and carefully taught him the rules of the road. Despite my best efforts to reclaim my years of shotgun, the preference was clearly for his dad to be the one in the front seat to help him view the world from his newfound perspective. And let me be clear when I say, that was definitely the better choice.
As I settled into the backseat of my car that day, this time I made sure to face forward. To take in all the moments that make up this life with this incredible teenager, who is off into the world, taking it all in from the front seat. I watched him, filled up with all of the things that are too difficult to explain without a movie montage of his whole life leading up to this point. And it hit me. I am now at a place in my parenting life where I am pretty much always in the backseat.
And it doesn’t feel like it did back in that 1970s station wagon when I wanted to be there. It feels hard. It feels lonely. It feels like it all went too fast.
But it also feels beautiful. There is something poignant about watching from the backseat as your kid takes charge of his open road ahead. As he gets to experience the grown-up view through his own lens. And while I often feel like I have an obstructed view, I’m still there.
And I know, while they may be fewer, there will be moments when I’m invited to ride shotgun and look at the world from beside him once again.