This April, we celebrated independence! Our farm boy turned 16, which meant I got to retire as my kids' chauffeur. Most country-dwelling families appreciate the gravity of adding another driver to the taxi-cab roster. Multiple trips from farm to school and back again each day aren't unusual.
Farm Boy pulled out of the drive that first morning, heading to school with his sister perched in the passenger seat of his new-to-him pickup truck. They both had goofy grins on their faces, and my heart lurched.
I knew he was more than prepared. Our farm boy grew up in a tractor, and like many farm kids, he learned the responsibility that comes with operating machinery early.
The farm's Gator quickly became his "vehicle." He knew the countryside between our families' farmsteads like the back of his hand, traveling waterways and forgotten dirt roads to get from one place to another. He and his sister would take off at dawn: "We're going to check corn!" or "Going to see Grandma!"
I'd holler after them about watching for cars, wearing safety belts and being home before dark. As their comfort level in driving farm equipment grew, so has mine. It is not unusual for both kids to roll onto the farm behind the wheel of a tractor. Still, I catch myself in an audible exhale, unaware I'd been holding my breath. A mother will always worry.
I've realized the bittersweet part of this rite of passage is the road time we will no longer share. Those mundane trips to and from school activities bore witness to insightful conversations, laughter and occasionally, a few tears.
So, I've given Farm Boy fair warning: Every so often, Mom may call shotgun so she can stay in the loop of what's going on.
-- Katie Pratt writes, tweets and farms from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.
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