I was 28 years old when I finally took my driver’s test.
In true Canadian fashion, the roads were icy and snow was falling softly on my windshield. My heart races and my nerves were jittery, and I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white.
The night before, our family van was littered with empty fast food wrappers, deserted crafts projects and spilled cheerios and crackers. I woke up to a freshly cleaned van, thanks to my husband who tired of being the family chauffeur.
When the Drive Test Examiner pulled open the passenger door, I watched as his eyes shifted to my backseat, where his gaze landed on three car seats. I immediately regretted not taking out the car seats, and wondered if he’d be marking me extra hard because of the precious cargo I’ll be carrying.
I didn’t drive perfectly, but I did pass my test, and suddenly I am a licensed driver.
As soon as the examiner left, I cried, and then I was laughing. I am almost 30 years old and I have just passed a milestone that most pass before graduating high school. I have been married nearly seven years and have three beautiful children. My life contains so many accomplishments, but driving has not been one of them.
I have been badgered often about why I don’t drive, reminded of how much easier my life would be if only I had a license. I know that the burden my husband has carried, driving me to appointments, picking our kids up from school and daycare, and running errands, has overwhelmed him at times.
I can’t exactly articulate why I have feared driving for so long, but eventually my fear seeped into the marrow of my bones and became who I was. I avoided learning, making excuse after excuse, until I convinced myself that I simply could not do it.
When my youngest daughter was born in May, 2017, our world stopped momentarily. She struggled gaining weight for months, and we quickly discovered that she had a heart condition. Our calendar filled with appointments for heart tests and appointments with specialists.
My husband, Daniel, dutifully attended each appointment with me, but I knew that I was being unfair to him. He worked full-time, and I was on maternity leave. There were many times that I could have gone to appointments alone with our daughter.
If only I knew how to drive.
I finally decided that enough was enough when I began considering all of the “what ifs.” What if something happened to our children and Daniel wasn’t home? What if I was left alone with the kids for a week, and I had nobody to drive me around? What if Daniel broke his leg, or worse, and there was no driver in our home?
I resolved to learn, and over many months I practiced driving with Daniel as my instructor, our children in the backseat shouting questions and crying at different intervals.
“Why is Mummy driving?” three-year-old Georgia would ask, yelling from the back row of the van.
“Mummy! When are you taking your driving test?” five-year-old Penelope inquired each time I practised driving.
“Waaaaaa!” our infant Eloise chimed in.
The morning of my test, my husband was across the road from the DriveTest Centre with our children, where they played and ate at McDonald’s, waiting to find out if I have passed.
After collecting myself, I drove over to McDonald’s by myself - a truly euphoric moment for me. I parked like most beginner drivers park: crookedly and nervously.
“I did it!” I bounced into the play area excitedly, yellow slip raised above my head in triumph.
Daniel embraced me and shouted “Hallelujah!”
Penelope and Georgia danced happy circles around us, shouting excitedly, their little arms wrapped around my waist.
The next day I took my oldest daughter on a date to the library and felt a lump in my throat as I considered all of the moments and opportunities that we can enjoy now that I am an independent driver.
“This is so weird,” Penelope comments from the backseat.
“It is, isn’t it?” I laugh.
As we pulled into the library parking lot, my daughter asked me a tough question.
“Mommy, why do you drive now? I thought you were afraid to drive?”
I concentrated on parking and turned off the car before answering.
“I am still afraid sometimes, Pen. But I drive because sometimes you need to do the things you’re most afraid of. Because I know it’s good for me, and it’s good for you, and daddy, and your sisters too,” I answered, hoping she will still want me to drive her places, despite my lingering fear.
“I’m proud of you Mommy,” Penelope replied.
“I’m proud of me too, sweetheart,” I said, because I am.