Riding Shotgun

I remember when I learned to drive.  My father gave me my first lesson:  How to Start the Engine.  He was a big believer in baby steps.  The car was parked in the driveway and in we hopped.  I was in the driver’s seat for the first time and my dad, of course, was riding shotgun.

“Today you’re just going to start the car and then you’ll back up a little bit and pull forward a little bit.  Back and forth, right here in the driveway and that’s it.  Okay.  Go ahead and start the car.”

“Where’s the button?”

“What button?”

“You know, the on button.”

“There is no on button.  Put the key into the ignition and turn it.”

I did as I was told, the motor started and I started screaming at the top of my lungs.

“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?  WHY ARE YOU SCREAMING?” my dad bellowed over my shrieking.


“How did you expect it to start?  Never mind.  We’re done for today.  Shut the engine.”

That was my first lesson.  It took my poor father a good while to muster up the courage to get back into the car with me, but eventually he did.  There we were again, parked in the driveway with me in the driver’s seat and dad riding shotgun.  I readied myself for lesson number two, checked the mirrors and adjusted the seat.

“Do you remember how to start the car?”


“Okay.  Get comfortable and go ahead and start ‘er up…and no screaming or we’re done.”

“Okay.”  I started the car without incident.

“Very good.  Now, put your foot on the brake and shift the car into reverse.  Look in the rear-view mirror, and turn and glance behind you to make sure the way is clear.”

I did as I was told.

“Good.  Now ease off the brake and gently press the gas pedal.  Good.  Good.  Now stop.”  And of course I slammed on the brake and we jerked to a stop.

“Okay.  Not bad, but you don’t need to slam on the brakes, just tap it.”  And it was at this point that my dad looked at me and noticed I was sitting with my left knee up by my ear, my foot resting on the dashboard.


“What?  You said to get comfortable.”

“That’s it.  We’re done.”

At that rate it was a miracle I ever learned to drive, but I did.  Fast forward 30 or so years.   My youngest son, Jared, my baby is learning to drive and now I am the one riding shotgun.  Although there are times I wish I could grab the wheel and take over as we make our way about town, I cannot.   My job in riding shotgun is to prepare Jared so that when the day comes for him to hit the road alone, he will be ready.  It’s not easy riding shotgun, especially when you’ve been in the driver’s seat every minute of every day for the better part of your baby’s life.  It’s not easy when you’re used to charting the course and leading the way.  It’s not easy riding shotgun.

The principal of my son’s high school gave this advice to us, parents of freshman, early in the school year.  “Your job,” he said, “is not to prepare the road ahead for your children, but to prepare your children for the road ahead.”  It isn’t easy, but I will suppress my urge to grab the wheel, to steer the course.  It’s hard to imagine my driving days are over, but I am thankful because at least for now, I’m still riding shotgun.

Till tomorrow…Good night.  Sleep tight.


6 thoughts on “Riding Shotgun

  1. That was a wonderful post!!! It is so hard to let go even though we were never in control in the first place. One of the best ways to prepare them for the road ahead is to provide them with the foundation of faith in God. Then we just have to pray hard that they will look to God for guidance along their life’s journey.

  2. Love this post! Was just talking to Lisa about Alie learning to drive last night! And it was actually Lisa who taught me the one thing about driving I remember the most….how to determine which way the turn signal goes! Seems simple, but trust me it was confusing! She said “turn it in the same direction the steering wheel is going dummy!”….such loving advice from an older sister to her younger sister……we got a laugh out of it yesterday though!

    P.S. Soooo stoked about my Just Another Ordinary Day tshirt that arrived in the mail today!

    • Ahhh. Yes it’s true… Breaks to brakes. Their to they’re. That’s what
      I get for relying on spell check. Just one of the many jobs taken over by computers that are performed much better by humans. Egg on my face…

      Your fly is down.

  3. Reblogged this on Just Another Ordinary Day and commented:

    My son, Jared, graduates from high school today. My heart is full, mostly of happiness, but with a tinge of sad. I know my days of riding shotgun grow few and far between. I love you Jared. I hope someday you know how much. Mama

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