Patience. That is the most significant thing you learn when you are teaching a teenager how to drive. But, I didn’t need it while being her driving instructor. Our daughter taught me it was what I’d been teaching her all along.
My father taught me how to drive for three minutes. I didn’t know (and how would I unless someone told me) that I was to brake around corners. I thought it took more effort to go around a curve in a Suburban, so I gave it gas. My father yelled at me to turn around and go home before calling Young Drivers of Canada and tearing the keys from my hands.
Over the past weeks, I have been working with our daughter who recently turned sixteen and has her G1 license. Which means, she needs an experienced driver in the passenger seat–among other rules.
So here I am in the front seat with my daughter beside me. She is a beauty, but more than that, she is cautious and smart. I have two of those same traits. We discuss adjusting mirrors, talk about which foot to use, and how to tell which way to turn the wheel when you are backing out of our driveway. The rules of the road she has already studied because there is an app for that.
I thought I would be nervous or even fearful. After all, I am asking my baby to hurl a weapon down a residential street dodging cars, people, random balls rolling into the path, and stop signs that I had not noticed until just then were hidden by trees. It had the makings of a horror story, but it was not that at all. In fact, it was one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent. And, some of the most fun my daughter and I have had together.
It was just the two of us. The radio was on low because I know our daughter likes background noise. I studied the road carefully and her speed even more closely. But she nailed it. I said very little except to tell her where we were going. OK, I must have said slow down a dozen times because she inherited her father’s lead foot. Other than that, she had this.
What I was witnessing was what a lifetime of patience had given her. She had the strength to do things on her own. I’d cry if I thought she didn’t need us anymore, but that isn’t even it. She needs us in the passenger seat of her growth and development. She requires our patience, support, and to be a little background noise to the clutter of her days. She doesn’t even need me to tell her to slow down, speed up, or even where to go. She knows.
Some feel that raising teenagers is more difficult than toddlers. That has not been my experience. Sharing a home with teenagers might be more challenging, but the raising is over. We are no longer our daughter’s primary influencers, and we have to trust that those years of toddling and relying on our guidance have brought her to a point where she can make excellent decisions most of the time and learn from the crappy ones the rest of the time. Decisions about when to put on the brakes, and when to throw caution to the wind and take a chance that the light won’t turn red part way through the intersection.
I don’t know when my dad realized he could trust me, but I can guess. When I was graduating grade thirteen, I decided to take what is now called a gap year because I thought the people I knew from high school were bad influences and I wanted separation. My mother was livid believing I would never go to school. My father laughed it off and knew I would.
That was the first moment I remember feeling empowered as a person. My dad had my back and it changed our relationship forever. He had given me all the tools I needed to make the right decisions for myself, and he trusted me. I’d like to think that, in some way, this first day on the road with my girl will change her and let her understand that I trust her beyond that car. She has earned it.
On our daughter’s willingness to leave the house, I wish, she would apply the brakes occasionally, but the ride is way more fun with the wind at her back. No need to slow down, honey. It is all you now. You have this.
My Turning 50 Like a Boss Tip: A little patience gives you the strength enough to last a lifetime.
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