free fallin’ and fast cars.


The kids are now the following ages: 24, 19, 17, 15, 13.

New Year’s Eve 2022.

Yes, four teenagers and an adult. For the longest time, Chris and I talked about the day that this would happen. The day we would have to navigate life with teens. All the literature had told me how this was a time when they would not want to be around us or it would be difficult to maintain a relationship. I argue that it’s not difficult to maintain if you have spent the early years fortifying it. It still takes effort but not the Herculean type.

We are here, in the land of parenting older children, and we have discovered a new beauty and magic of parenthood.

Yes of course, there are broody and moody moments. There is the eye roll. There is the frustrated grunt. There are the tears and the rebellious comments, mostly to do with screen time and sleep. There is the bickering between siblings. There are hurtful words and hurt feelings. There is this quest to belong and also to stand out. There is lashing out and a lashing in. (And of course, there are the rude jokes, mostly from the teenage boy.)

There are also exchanges of gratitude and kindness. There are generous gestures of chores done for a hurt sibling. There are loving words said when another choice could have easily been made. There are commitments to strive, to learn, to be more patient with each other and themselves. There are love languages learned and re-learned. There are heartfelt apologies and offers of tea and cookies.

As they entered adolescence, one by one, there was only one thing they needed Chris and I to do – to work on ourselves so we could anchor the moment for them; to understand that we only had one choice in each moment with them, to reach for connection or not.

I learned this secret in the most unusual place.

The car ride.

There is something about the car that gives permission for the kids to confess; to share deep thoughts; to ask difficult moral and existential questions; to apologize; to call me or their father out; to reach out for reassurance (or to test) that our connection is strong.

(If it’s not the car ride, then it is late at night when I go pee and they intersect my path to talk until 3:00am. Now I don’t drink water past 7:00pm to avoid this conversation because I am not my best self at that hour.)

A couple weeks ago I had to drive down the mountain, a 10-12 minute drive depending on road conditions, to pick up a child waiting at the bottom of our road. My fifteen year old, #4, decided to come with me for the ride. She is my fourth rodeo with adolescent teens so I don’t question why she wants to come because I am already privy to the the mysterious magnetic pull of being alone with mom in the car.

I have done this before. I have found myself alone in the car with all of my children at some point where even if it’s a five minute drive, they take the opportunity to talk to me about something that is causing them anxiety or stress. My only task is to listen. I am human and sometimes there is a reaction but the car reduces the risk of me opting out of connection.

I quickly figured out why the car is a safe space. I have to look ahead and drive. I can’t face them. I have learned that it is not necessary to pull over so they can repeat themselves if my attention was more on the snowstorm in front of me or the unfamiliar route. They often talk through their problem and figure out a solution without me saying a word. But the car ride does allow me to listen better so that when we get home and we have to sit with them and continue the talk, I am less reactive and more open.

She is only here for a month and this is our only car ride alone together, this 12 minute ride. I know that she needs me more than ever but there is nothing we can do to change the situation. She needs to live in Toronto right now to fulfill her dreams. She is fifteen, a young fifteen, and she knows what she wants but it is still hard to be so far away from each other.

We get in the car. I don’t know what to expect. Will she tell me that she wants to come back home because it’s too hard being away? Will she express frustration or anger or sadness? Will she be excited about her decisions and plans? Will she need help deciding on something? Will she ask for support with her habits? Will she ask me to move to Toronto?

We drive for the first few minutes in silence. Then she connects her phone to the bluetooth. And she plays a song.

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, who’s crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too…

I smile and look at her. I nod at her, approving her choice. She turns up the volume and I know there will be no talking because the songs will say it all.

In unison, we belt out the chorus when it just repeats. (That Jerry Maguire moment.) I almost forget that I am driving and want to close my eyes to capture this moment forever, this acknowledgement that we are both doing the best we can.

Now I’m free, free fallin’
(Free fallin’, I’m-a free fallin’, I’m-a
Free fallin’, I’m-a free fallin’, I’m-a)
Yeah I’m free, free fallin’
(Free fallin’, I’m-a free fallin’, I’m-a
Free fallin’, I’m-a free fallin’, I’m-a)

The next song on the playlist is one we play frequently on our family drive home up the mountain. Last night was the last one the seven of us would do together for a long time. I actually don’t know when it will happen again. I cherish this drive because it is our transition moment from the busyness of our day to our evening family time. We play music on the car ride that chills us out and often it turns into car pool karaoke where we sing together. She played this same song last night too:

You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together, we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me, myself, I got nothing to prove

And I know that we will be ok.

A big thank you hug to car rides and of course, to Tom Petty and Tracy Chapman.







4 responses to “free fallin’ and fast cars.”

  1. A Avatar

    I love everything about this ❤️ Thank you for sharing and big hugs to you mama xo

    1. rozanne Avatar

      Thank you, I appreciate this.

  2. Lynn Avatar

    The car ride is a magical thing for sure. Hello and hugs to the whole clan from Canada!

    1. rozanne Avatar

      Hey Lynn!!! Hugs to your clan from Costa Rica!! Miss you!

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