I realized this on the drive home from Nantucket. We couldn't stay for the whole weekend, because my mom is on deadline crunch, so we arrived on Friday and then were driving back to my apartment on Saturday night. Everything was fine until darkness fell on I-95. We were in Rhode Island when I felt my mother riding the brakes.
I looked over at her. "Everything OK?"
"Yup." She was white-knuckling the wheel. The speedometer needle hovered around 40 m.p.h. Cars and trucks were whizzing by us on both sides, several honked in frustration.
"The speed limit is 65."
"I'm not gonna drive like a maniac and get us killed, OK? It doesn't matter if we go a little slower."
"Actually, with almost 200 miles to go, a five or 10 mile per hour difference really adds up. 40 miles an hour is going to take five hours, whereas 60 will take - "
"I'M DRIVING HERE."
Every daughter knows when she's pushing it, so I shut up. An hour passed, and my mom was so tense, we drove in uncharacteristic silence. It was only 10 p.m. but she started talking about stopping at a motel for the night.
"So you're going to guilt me?" she said.
"Ohmigod, I breathed."
Sure, I was thinking that we could have spent the evening on Nantucket, eating lobster rolls by the sea before going to bed in the clean, crisp linens of our charming B&B. Instead, we were making our second seven-hour drive in 24 hours, posing a traffic hazard in the middle of I-95, and looking for a Ramada Inn.
But my sigh was totally innocent.
Then I had a better idea than passive-aggressive respiration: "Do you want me to drive?"
My mom took her eyes off the road to look at me, aghast.
To be fair, this wasn't an overreaction. I've been living in New York for five years, and I haven't driven regularly since I was a teenager. The last time I had to parallel park was my driver's test.
But driving is like riding a bike, right?
A 3,000-pound, 400-horsepower steel bike.
We discussed it at a rest stop. Seeing the stress on my mother's face in the fluorescent lights, I understood it didn't matter why she felt uncomfortable driving at night, only that she did. I could be more sympathetic, or better, I could help.
She was still skeptical. "You're sure you can do this?"
"Please," I said with more confidence than I felt, "I'm almost 30."
So we swapped seats and set out. At first, she wouldn't stop telling me to slow down, even though I was going the limit.
"Mom," I said. "I'm the captain now."
From there, we bombed home. I pushed through my fear and ignored my mother bracing against the window and the dash. I didn't know it, but she had her eyes closed for the tricky exit-jumping required to enter Manhattan.
No wonder she was no help reading the GPS.
Toward the end, a Bentley driver flagged me down, asking for directions into the city.
For the money, you'd think a Bentley would know.
I told them and offered that they could follow me.
My mom took a break from being terrified to be impressed.
Somehow, we made it safely home. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment after I parallel parked than I did after speaking in front of a hundred people.
Out on the sidewalk, as soon as my mom got her land legs, she delivered one of her body-shaking high-fives and a giant hug.
Yeah, we make a good team.
Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's columns in their new collection, "Have a Nice Guilt Trip," coming July 8. Also, look for Lisa's new novel, "Keep Quiet," in stores now.