I’ve had many thoughts during the process of teaching my middle son, Jakob, to drive. Some of the utterances are not fit to print, but I’ll bet you can use your imagination. After putting my life in his hands, I often have returned home and, without saying a single word to my sweet husband, poured a
small huge glass of wine.
One of the things that has struck me is how similar parenting is to this experience. (And yes, sometimes wine can be essential in coping with both!)
1. Both Look Easier than They Are and Require Lots of Practice.
Do you remember when you first began driving? How scary and overwhelming it was? It is one of the most nail biting, butterfly inducing passages into young adulthood. However, after years of being behind the wheel, it’s easy to forget how tough it is because now we are driving pros. We can estimate when to turn, parallel park with the best of them, and can make a U-turn in a mini van appear like child’s play. (Sure, there are too many drivers—even adults—who are terrifying to drive with, but that is a subject for another
I had forgotten how it felt to be a new driver. I expected more from my son than he was capable of. He needed lots of practice to get better at it! Just like I need lots of practice to parent well. My son is a perfectionist and expected to ace driving. One of the things he needed to learn was to be patient with himself. To give himself grace when he made the inevitable mistakes while he was learning.
Do you remember how you felt as a new mom? Before our babies were born, we had expectations and idealized visions about what this parenting thing entailed. Then when we brought our baby home, reality whacked us upside the head. It is tiring, draining, overwhelming, thrilling, and exhilarating to care for a small person and these feelings last for years! It’s important to be gentle and patient with yourself as you embrace your new role and learn your child’s unique wants and needs. Fast forward several years, and we have become a pro at this parenting thing. At least until the next stage of life, where we have to learn all over again what our child wants and needs from us.
2. Just When You Think the Road is Smooth, Watch Out for Obstacles!
Jakob took the classroom portion of Drivers Ed and he excelled at it. However, only behind-the-wheel experience prepared him to drive and to react to situations.
He spent hours learning the rules of the road, yet froze when it came to understanding which car had the right of way. He didn’t know how to handle it when an ambulance was approaching an intersection at the same time. Another time, he was so busy looking to the left on a right hand turn that he nearly clipped the curb to his right. What can prepare you for that?
This is similar to how you can attempt to learn everything about parenting through books and talking to other parents. But that is impossible! Only through experiencing life with your child do you glean the knowledge on the best way to parent YOUR unique child. And each new stage has huge hurdles to overcome.
One day, you might be thinking, “I’ve got this parenting thing down. My child is being so easygoing lately.” Then in the span of 24 hours, your new thoughts are, “Wow, I have no idea what I’m doing!” Or, “Who is this demon child who is forcing me to carry him out of the store?”
Nothing can prepare you for all of the challenges of parenting. There will be bumps and huge potholes along our journey. But once we get past them, the road will be smooth for a bit and we can relish the drive. My oldest son went through an extremely difficult time 3-4 years ago. When I look back on those days, the details are a blur. I’m simply grateful he is doing so well now.
3. Sometimes We Need to Trust Our Children’s Judgment
One of the most difficult things for me to do while teaching Jakob to drive was to surrender all control. I could not see what he was seeing and I simply had to trust his judgment that he was clear to change lanes or park next to a car.
Parenting requires that you surrender more control with each passing year. There have been times when I have questioned my sons’ choices of friends or school schedules. Later, I realized they had made the right choice and I was proud they trusted their own judgments.
This experience has had a learning curve and there have been some fights and yelling along the way. However, I know I will treasure this special time with my son and the adventures we have shared, one road, one stop sign, and one day at a time.