My dog got sheared last week. A “summer cut” we call it, to explain away his white shag. The pointy merengue curls are gone, shaved close to his skin, leaving only the foamy wake of the buzzer.

Truthfully, I hate his haircut. I prefer the scruffy whitecaps that loop over his eyes and soften his snout. As the weather heats up though, a chunky coat is unreasonable. So, we have him shaved.

I think his new haircut embarrasses him a bit. Or maybe, without a thick layer of fur, he feels exposed. I sense a vulnerability — he’s suddenly feeling the sun on his skin a little differently or a tingling change in the almost-summer breeze.

I understand because I feel it too.

June, as it often is, has been rife with change. In another week, one son will graduate from 8th grade and another will finish kindergarten. Each marks a big and very different transition and I will probably cry a little for both.

But there have been other milestones with less fanfare. In the last few days my daughter has started her first job and received her driver’s permit. These are transitions not marked by a walk across a stage, no pomp and circumstance, no special outfit. Instead, these have been moments on weekday afternoons that feel like they change everything just a little bit — steps along the way to adulthood. I feel emotional about this too.

I remember the surreal feeling when we drove away from the hospital with our hours-old infant in the backseat of the car. My husband and I laughed nervously, he in the driver’s seat and me in the back hovering over the carseat thinking, “This must be some sort of joke…they just let us drive out of here with a baby?!”
He drove cautiously and slowly; even so, I think I still asked him to slow down. I remember looking at her face scrunched between a pink cap and the padded safety straps of the baby carrier and thinking, “What now?”

It is a feeling that has never really gone away.

Like when the driving instructor handed me my daughter’s paperwork with a perfunctory, “Any questions?” I stood on my driveway dumbfounded. SO MANY QUESTIONS. Let’s start with: so, I’m just supposed to let her drive now?


On our maiden voyage, my daughter eagerly took the driver’s seat and I slunk into the passenger’s seat beside her. My 6 year old was comfortably clicked in his booster behind us, with no perceptible fear for his life. As we rolled down the street and she found the just-right pressure for the gas pedal — not too hard, not too soft — he peppered me with questions about losing teeth.
“Does it hurt when the tooth falls out? How do you know it’s going to fall out? Where does it go?”

I answered his questions as best I could, while pointing out upcoming red lights and pedestrians to my daughter.
“Losing a tooth doesn’t hurt.”
“Slow down around this bend.”
“They just get wiggly. Yes, it’s kinda gross.”
“That person wants to get into your lane.”
My cell phone started ringing. It was my 14 year old, so I answered it on speaker. “Hello?”
“Hi,” his voice filled the car. “When are you going to be home?”
“I don’t know, why?” I turned to my daughter, “There’s a stop sign coming up.”
“My friends are hanging out. I want to go.”

As he spoke, the shoulder of the road seemed to be getting closer and closer to my door. “Sweetheart, can you move the car a little toward the center of the road?” Did I sound calm? I was trying to sound calm.

“How does the tooth come out of your head?” I heard nervously from the backseat.

We rolled along, our separate conversations braided together, intersecting at our personal worries then separating again. Questions and answers hung in the air as we travelled at an uneven 25 to 31 miles per hour.

I passed a bag of veggie straws into the backseat and got off the phone with my older son, promising to be home soon. My six year old’s questions were replaced with rapid, hollow crunching. I turned to my daughter and looked at her in the driver’s seat. I checked her speed: 30 miles per hour. It felt faster. Everything, it seems, feels faster in the passenger’s seat.

“Let’s try to slow down into the turns, okay?” I said to my daughter. “You’re doing great.” Good advice for us both.


  • Sarah

    Love it!

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Thank you!

  • Jen Shields

    Jen….you made the writing seem effortless! Beautifully done. Capturing all the nuances of holding on and letting go for both moms and the kids. Bravo!

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Thank you! We know none of it is effortless. And the nuance of holding on and letting go is so tricky!

  • Phyllis Provenzano

    You have mastered the ability to multitask and still sound calm. I got anxious just reading this. No, actually you are doing great Jen. The kids are wonderful and your dogs hair will grow back soon.

    Time does seem like it is flying by…but it is all good.

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Thank you, Phyllis! It’s nice to have encouraging words from mothers who have already been through this!

  • Barbara Welle

    Just shared with my husband, Larry, and we agree – your writing is masterful!

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Thank you, Barbara and Larry! I appreciate you reading!

  • Kathy

    Love this! What we all think and feel but can’t quite put it in words…or at least as well as you have done.

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Thanks, Kathy!

  • Noel

    I had to remind myself to breathe half way through this!!! You definitely captured the anxiety of the moment. I’m going to go have a drink now… lol!

    • Jennifer Gaites

      Lol! Thank you!


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