Pace Car

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do something fun with my daughter. She will be turning 16 in one month, and will be needing something to drive both to and from school. Since she was a little girl, she has always said she wanted a blue car. That’s always been her favorite car color. After some months of talking and searching, we found her “dream” car! It is a 2010 VW Bug Convertible (final edition). It’s a cute car, and looks exactly like what she would drive. Ava is a good child. She’s respectful and obedient. She studies hard, has always made good grades, and is in Beta Club. She loves her friends and family. She is a Christian and loves Jesus. I’m proud of her, and I was happy to be able to get her the car she wanted. We discussed that had she been some rebellious teen, she would most likely have been given the privilege of driving something much less desirable and cheaper. She’s earned this.

Her dream car, however, came with a catch- it was located at a dealership in Ohio. That’s about four and a half hours away from us. Not too far, but definitely an all-day commitment to get to once you factor in stops. We drove up last weekend to see it in person, and to test drive it. It runs like a dream. She knew that was the car she wanted. So, this weekend, my mother and I took her to Ohio to pick up the car. Everything went smoothly. Ava had her car, and then it was time to drive home. I doubted she would want to drive the full four and a half hours back, but I wanted this day to be special for her, so whatever she wanted to do, that would be the plan. We decided that my mom would ride with Ava in the new car, and I would lead us back home, since I’ve already made the drive (3 times by that point). We take off.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot at the dealership, it began to rain (of course). I was a little nervous for her to drive in it, since we were in a completely new place with pretty heavy traffic, so we stopped at a store and for gas. By the time we were ready to hit the road, the rain had subsided. As we headed out on our journey, my child in my rear view mirror- looking so grown up driving her new car- I had so many thoughts. The first emotion, if I’m being honest, was a little tinge of sadness. How are we already here? Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was popping that paci in and out of her little baby mouth, and cracking up each time she did it? Didn’t she just learn how to ride a bicycle in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church? Hadn’t we just started our first day of school? Actually, the last one is accurate. We had. Except this time we had just started our first day of tenth grade. How are we here already?

The second emotion, though, was such pride. I’m so proud of who she is and what she’s done so far. It’s not been an easy journey to get here, but she’s so strong and incredibly resilient. She has met with some very grown up adversity in her almost 16 years, and has stared it right in the face. She’s a fighter. A fighter with purpose. I love her so much I think my heart could burst most days.

So, we’re now driving. As I pull out, I’m very conscientious about every move I’m making. I purposely stay in the very center of the lane as much as I can. I keep my speed at the speed limit, or maybe just a mile or two over, but never going so fast that I would risk losing her. I preplan every move I’m about to make. I avoided the right lane when traffic was merging, because I didn’t want her to have to deal with too much too soon. When we came upon construction, I put her in the lane that I felt would give her the most room and make her feel the least constricted. I became her pace car. For those of you not living in Eastern Tennessee, or who may not have any NASCAR racing reference point, a “pace car” is the car in front that leads the race cars to limit the speed before the start of green flag racing. Pace cars can serve also other purposes, such as serving as a place holder when a race car pulls in to pit or if there is a caution on the track. The pace car steps in to help the other cars. That was my job today. I was her pace car.

It made me think about her life, interestingly. Hasn’t that really been my job her whole life? Isn’t that our entire purpose as parents? We are pace cars for our children. We teach them to navigate the track of life. We are there to set the speed for clear paths, and to slow them down when there are situations to approach with caution. We can step in for them during those times we need to, but mostly we are making a smooth route for them, leading them to safety. It’s our very reason for being here at this stage of life. So, as Ava and I continued down the highway, me as her pace car, and her gaining confidence with every passing mile, my heart was both a little happy and a little sad. It’s hard to watch them become increasingly independent, but in reality, that’s what we are training them to do.

I had one a final realization- the pace car doesn’t travel with them through the entirety of the race. It doesn’t cross the finish line with them, and it doesn’t take part in the victory lap. Those are their moments to shine. The pace car fades into the background, but will be ready to step in when necessary for the next race.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be her pace car.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessica
    Aug 18, 2019 @ 10:06:43

    Just precious! I love this so much and you too!!!



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