Hope on the Highway
A few weekends ago, I took my thirteen-year-old daughter, Ellie, to her tennis tournament in San Angelo. On our three-hour drive to this small Texas town, I noticed my grip tightening on the steering wheel with each passing mile. While my daughter was singing along to her favorite songs, my jaw clenched tighter and tighter. The closer we got, the more anxious I became.
Ellie’s match early the following morning was against a formidable opponent. I set my chair up as close to the side of the tennis court as I could sit without actually touching the hard, green surface. Since I was so close to the girls, I could easily hear the score before each point. Half-way through the first set, I listened to the score being called incorrectly- and it was not in my daughter’s favor. I knew it was wrong, but I physically couldn’t stop myself from stepping in and correcting the score. Ellie had worked too hard for too long to have even one point taken away from her in such an erroneous fashion. Wasn’t it my job as a mom to correct such errors?
Despite my best efforts, Ellie lost her first match. Having dabbled in the game of tennis over the years, I felt more than qualified to offer my daughter unsolicited coaching advice. I assumed it would be appreciated and well-received, but instead, my words caused Ellie to tense and avert her gaze to the side. My daughter and I sat in silence for a few minutes before asking her if she was okay.
“No, Mom. I’m not alright.”
“Well, then, as your mom, what can I do to fix it?”
“You don’t need to do anything.”
Don’t do anything? Anything at all? But isn’t that what moms do- we DO something? Humm. Okay.
Before Ellie’s second match, I purposely set my chair up further back from the hard, green battlefield. I intentionally tried to give my daughter the physical and emotional space she asked to have- and, if I’m honest- the space and distance she deserved. And even though it went against every one of my maternal instincts, I gave my daughter space and permission to do her own thing- whatever that might be.
On our drive home the following day, I noticed my grip on the steering wheel was looser, and the tightness in my jaw was no more. I joined Ellie in singing along to our favorite T. Swift songs and filled our not so favorite songs with our jokes and laughter. It was such a different car ride from the one we’d had just thirty-six hours prior. So, what had changed?
Our kids try so hard to please us. They want to make us proud, so they work to accomplish the goals we’ve set out for them. But what about the question that I finally had to ask myself during Ellie’s tennis weekend- What are our kids’ own individual hopes and dreams, and what makes our kids truly happy- apart from what we’ve set upon them?
So, in the spirit of stepping back and giving my children the chance to step up, I have agreed to let go of this sacred writing space for this week and am instead turning it over to my daughter. I asked Ellie to write something around this topic and would like to share her insightful words with you. I know this experience has steered me in a different parenting direction. I just hope it’s the right direction- but I guess that’s what the parenting journey is for all of us- a series of turns that we just hope and pray are following our kids’ own unique life maps.
They say it’s not about the destination but rather the journey. I’d like to add that sometimes letting go is almost as powerful as taking control. Because sometimes, a wrong turn can lead to beautiful discoveries.
Now- here’s Ellie…
Hope on the Highway- by Ellie Rose
Last spring, my brother, Tommy, and I were at my grandparent’s lake house. My grandmother, Kiki, wanted to teach Tommy and me how to drive. I wanted to learn, but Kiki kept reaching over and grabbing the steering wheel. It felt like she was trying to take control while I was just trying to learn how to drive on my own.
Us kids know our parents want to figure out our problems, but we can usually solve our own problems. Y’all can step out of the driver’s seat- even if we are heading into a ditch. Sometimes we may need to crash.
It’s always going to be our job to climb out of the ditch and call Triple-A. But, if y’all don’t believe in us, we can’t believe in ourselves. We are stronger than these tiny bodies show. But, if the most important people in our lives don’t think we can, then can we?
Us kids are not afraid to get dirt on our hands. It builds strength and character. Because, if we never got stuck in the ditch, we couldn’t have learned that our right path is actually straight ahead. And if we have a full tank of gas and have our foot on the accelerator, no one can stop us (except for a flat tire- but that’s what dads are for :))
Wow. Ellie- what an insightful writer you are. Truth is what we parents need to hear and you nailed it. And Caroline- you are so right. I played tennis last week and my coach kept saying ‘Loosen you GRIP’ to me. It’s such a wise life lesson that I am actually making t-shirts that say it- and will mail you one. Love you both and thanks for this! Xoxo, Lauren
Ellie, you definitely have your mom’s gift for eloquent and moving words. You are a wonderful writer (and wise beyond your years)! Thank you both for sharing your wisdom with us I love you both so much xoxo
Well, that apple didn’t fall far. 😘