Momma Driving Camp

Raising a special needs child (now young adult) is not for the faint of heart. Those in this tribe with me know the worries about the future, the constant questioning of the current game plan, and the grinding heartache of seeing our other children coast through the world with such ease while our special dear one struggles and almost every turn. Now I’m the lady on the Northeast Regional train from New Haven to Baltimore weeping as all the tension drains out of me. I feel like a puddle of goo. I’ve just spent nine days with my daughter, solidifying her driving skills so that she can get to her  job independently. I drove a little hybrid car to leave with her (too small??) and now I’m coming home (too soon??) after covering as many car lessons as I could think of (enough??).

Here’s the insurance and registration

Here’s how to get gas…no, never diesel

Yeah, double parking is technically against the rules…people break that one

Yep, I hate it when you suddenly find yourself in a turn only lane too

Here’s where we’re hiding a key in a magnet box under the car

Here’s how a squidgy works

Here’s how the rear window wiper works

Let’s practice setting up navigation once more

These tags are temporary and here’s how you get the new ones on when they come…never mind, get help on that

Oh no, we didn’t go over how to adjust the mirrors! #*&@!!

Brenna has been living in an independence development community in New Haven for three years and man, was that a game plan I questioned at various points! The place had no system for screen limits and I insisted Brenna have some, leaving our relationship battered. She deeply believed I created the depression she experienced mid-way through her second year. And…maybe I did. That’s all part of it. Constantly questioning the game plan.

But today…today I feel imminently grateful for her program! She is in a job that absolutely suits her, assembling and packaging defibrillators, now part time, but they want her to transition to full time! They love her. THEY LOVE HER!  Brenna and I went over who would take which bills and she can actually pay some! Crazy.

And still…I’m tyrannized by wondering if I’ve done enough, if the plan is airtight enough, if she’s ready enough. Several times in the last couple of days of my visit she said, “I’m going to miss you!” This is after three years of “I won’t miss you. And you ruined our relationship anyway.” and me wondering if maybe I did. Oh, hearing this change…I thought my chest might crack open from the swell inside of blended emotions; love, relief, regret, hope. I can scarcely believe we are here. And…we may not stay here, there have been more twists in the road than I can count. But as for the driving, my greatest assurance came when Brenna said, “the voice in my head that might be God is telling me it’s going to be ok.” To that I said, “sounds like God to me”. Then she wiped her tears away, gave me a rib-cracking hug for which she is famous, and she drove off without me.

10 comments


  • Julian Benn

    THANK YOU FOR THIS. TRULY.

    May 17, 2021
  • Laura

    This is beautiful, Janice—thanks for opening your heart to us. So much letting go at this stage…..

    May 17, 2021
  • Kirsten Parker

    Beautiful lessons, Janice. Proud of you and Brenna too!

    May 18, 2021
  • Carl Robbins

    You got me with this one, my friend. Beautifully written and deeply moving.

    May 18, 2021
  • Lisa Lamb

    Janice, Thanks for sharing this beautiful and poignant story. In four days I will mark the fifth anniversary of my sister’s death, and your story evokes painful and delightful memories of my parents’ many and varied attempts to launch her into greater independence, like the shower they hosted as they got her her own condo next to theirs, with all sorts of kitchen gadgets she never used, because she conveniently ‘stopped by’ their condo every evening at dinner time! All done with love and huge hearts, all risky on some level. All part of the journey. Blessings on your journey.

    May 18, 2021
  • Nancy Wright

    Oh my goodness Dan, Janice and Brenna. Your story brought me to tears. How right you are about other siblings cruising through life with only a few bumps. You, Dan and Brenna faced huge, gigantic challenges over and over again. It made me cry to read how Brenna blamed you for her depression and didn’t forgive you until recently. It was never your fault! That’s so heartbreaking for a parent.
    I admire you so much for taking her a car, driving with her every day and making reasonably sure she was set to be on her own. That’s so amazing!
    Please tell her that her cousin Megan had 3 (minor) car accidents before she was 18. She even rear ended her middle school counselor’s husband. No one was hurt in any of the accidents, just the cars and our bank account.
    You are both great parents who have done your very best for Brenna. She’s so lucky to have you both!
    Aunt Nancy

    May 18, 2021
  • I am so happy to read this post Janice!!! I treasured our time of catching up recently and look forward to whatever future contact God has in store for us. Mega congrats. I bet you and Susan Cho Van Riesen have lots in common (she also has a special needs child, they adopted, he’s probably not nearly as independent as Brenna is!!). So so so relieved for you. You sound like a fantastic mom on every single front. Much love!!!

    May 19, 2021
  • Jonathan Stern

    Very beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. May Brenna and you both be blessed.

    May 19, 2021
  • Dear One

    Go Ma! You’re an incredible inspiration!

    May 21, 2021
  • Mike H

    Wonderful story Janice! I’ve taught one to drive and my daughter just turned 16 and almost to that point. Thank you sharing the speed bumps along your and your daughter’s relationship. If it isn’t obvious by now, you’ve done well, and she will appreciate it very much, even if only in the long run.

    May 28, 2021

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