Backseat driving is no longer a slogan to me.

 

Holiday car trips are a great way to have family time, they say. Whoever “they” are, they must not have teenagers pretending to be Pettys or Andrettis.

 

Our recent trip to the grandparents in Tennessee booted dad to the passive seating section. With two teenage drivers as eager to conquer the road as acne, the two grownup pilots were consigned to economy class.

 

I used to look forward to these days, naively thinking I could nap and read all the way to wherever. Forget it. Parents learn to sleep with one eye open when their kids are driving, two eyes open when their kids’ friends are behind the wheel.

 

God gives us little reminders along the road of life that we are not really in the driver’s seat about most things.

 

My wife privately scolded me for nixing the teenage driver CD choices of Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks. I persist in my resistance to country music on the principle that no self-respecting New Yorker would two-step to that beat.  “You think you are lord of the little things,” she said. “When you drive, we have to listen to sports and news talk.”

 

Since when did fairness become a factor? What of the privileges of elders?

 

Control is the issue. (Or maybe the lack of it.) Kids want it; parents don’t want to give it up.

 

Part of this is security. We want our kids to stay safely in the right lane (yet pass every other kid on the road) when they are in the driver’s seat. We don’t want them to hurt themselves or others. We want them to arrive alive (and arrive first).

 

Part of this is our insecurity. We don’t want to be left by the roadside as they drive off, having done our job and become irrelevant.

 

They have never really been ours, these kids. They write our last name and eat our food and act like they own the place we pay for. And we get used to thinking that qualifies us for ownership.

 

They have always been God’s children, on loan to us for a time. If we don’t turn them back sooner or later, we’ll be paying late fees on them and robbing the world of enjoying them too.

 

It’s an epiphany of mortality. You remember buckling the first newborn into the car seat and heading home from the hospital. You thought you would be steering the family forever. And then you find yourself in the back seat being steered.

Someday those kids will buckle you in and drive you to the hospital for the last time.