Writing Motherhood: Driving with teens
Written by
suzi banks baum
June 2014
Written by
suzi banks baum
June 2014

Catherine drivingDriving Mother

by Suzi Banks Baum

One tangle of mothering teens is this:

You emerge from sleep. You hear your teen making a smoothie. She is grinding what sounds to be at least two cement blocks lugged from the garage at a pre-dawn hour and placed without liquid in the Vitamix. You decide that getting up is better than pretending to sleep. Recalling an endless parade of bowls of oatmeal, granola and toast, you are happy to know the teen is feeding itself. You pray. You meditate. You turn on the bathroom light. You encounter the teen reading over the porcelain sink while brushing its teeth. You greet the teen. The teen grunts. You pass by carefully so as not to dislodge toothbrush or book from grip of teen. You pad downstairs to look after your hot drink. You avoid mess around sink hoping the teen will clean. You mention this to teen when next you cross paths between laundry room and mirror. Teen grunts again, clearly offended that you'd ever think to doubt its dish washing abilities. You blow on your hot drink, steam rising. You consider the drive to school, weather, road and teen conditions. You check time with teen. Teen snarls at reminder. You sip hot drink. Teen says ten minutes. You go upstairs to dress. You move slowly, for in ten minutes much can be done. Quiet moments pass in your bedroom. You make the bed with one sock on and the other tucked in to your elbow as you shake out the comforter. Four minutes later you have the other sock on but no shirt and teen is ready. Impatient. You ask teen to go warm up the car. You put your coat on in the chilly mudroom. Teen is now not ready. You don your boots. Now teen is in car and buckled in for safety. Somehow teen is ready and not ready within same two minutes. Teen shall drive you and her to school. You buckle up. There is a transformation that must happen in the dynamic between you and teen. Surly morning behavior must give way to supplicant asking for your gifted guidance, eyes and patience as teen backs car down icy driveway. You brace your hot drink with one hand, your body with the other against the dashboard as if you could slow this whole operation down a few years. But there is no slowing down now. You and your hot drink are here for the ride. Teen drives. You breathe. Teen stops at the light. Drink sloshes. Teen breathes. You breathe. Teen drives on. Between the stoplights and the accelerations that require you to brace your self, your drink and her childhood, there are moments when teen is driving smoothly in correct lane at correct speed at correct distance from other vehicles while calculating arrival at potential stoplight ahead, incorrectly. Another sloshy stop. Up a mountain you go and it is not even 7:45 a.m. No need to speed. Slight adjustments necessary for wandering over center-line or in to the breakdown lane, both descriptive of your current state- hardly centered and on the verge of breaking down. Teen slows to final stop sign with newfound grace. No slosh. Teen flicks blinker on for right-hand turn in to school driveway. Proceed up the hill. Keep sunglasses on to mask wide-eyed gaze as you behold the coming confidence in this driver who just yesterday was using her slippered feet to scoot herself along in an orange plastic car with a yellow roof, small rubbery steering wheel glazed with saliva dribbled from a sore teething mouth. Teen has driven herself to school. You, slightly damp, get out of car to congratulate her and yourself for a ride free of arguments and discussion of any heated topics like summer jobs and travel plans, perhaps one that includes back packing through India while teen is still a teen. You watch teen haul heavy backpack and self-made lunch in to the cosmos of boys with wet hair and flushed cheeks, to on-call discussions about despair, a bio test and Student Senate, in to the world of sophomore year where mothers are not allowed on campus or anywhere near the topic of what exactly goes on in school today. Echoes of that cheerful question die on the lips of mothers of teens everywhere. Teen becomes more of a teen in tenth grade. Mothers become more mothers, wrestling steamy cups and conversations in cars driven by the hands of those who used to play Patty Cake. You pour yourself in to the car where you no longer get to look in the rear view mirror to see teen nodding off in heavy blue plastic car seat lined in sheepskin, Good Night Moon in her hands. She is a big girl now, this teen. Buckle up.  
        [caption id="attachment_6180" align="aligncenter" width="274"]Momma Love by Ali Smith on the altar with Grandma Jo waving. Momma Love by Ali Smith on the altar with Grandma Jo waving.[/caption]      

Thank you for reading Laundry Line Divine.

If you are intrigued to know what would happen if you began Writing Motherhood, please join me June 9-10 at 6:00 PM at Edith Wharton’s summer home in the Berkshires. Yes, Edith has a room for us, with a door, behind which we will write and share.

More information is here.

For more writing from inside motherhood by Suzi and 35 other women, find yourself a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. In a recent review posted on Amazon and Good Reads, a reader said:

"This book is filled with little gems, golden nuggets of words and illustrations, emotions and dreams, vulnerabilities and expressions of deep pride, humor, poetry, and prose that’s visceral."

You can give a gift to a friend that has the power to grace women’s lives. Proceeds from the sale of An Anthology of Babes benefit two organizations in Berkshire County that provide free and low cost health care for women and families locally. Make a difference in one woman's life that ripples out in to the world.

Order your copy here.

Many thanks and much love,


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