My youngest daughter got her learner’s permit from the DMV a couple of weeks ago. We’ve spent a portion of nearly every single day since then with her behind the wheel. And with me in the passenger seat.
She turns seventeen tomorrow.
Her impending birthday has had me reflecting lately on our lives together, and on whether or not I’ve done my job to adequately prepare her for a life on her own – for a life in the driver’s seat.
For seventeen years I’ve been her driver, steering her away from this bad idea, encouraging her when she was interested in something, braking forcibly before something bad could happen, and, in general, leading her toward adulthood. There will be no test or license to say she has successfully completed childhood and is now legally ready to be an adult. But an adult she will be, regardless. And she will be in her own driver’s seat, guiding her own path, following roads and avenues without me beside her to remind her when to yield or when to take her right of way, when to gear down or when to speed up. She will determine on her own how to navigate life’s curves, and how to handle steep hills. She won’t be depending on me to caution her when she goes a little too far to the left, or, Heaven forbid, a little too far to the right.
It might be easier, and I might be able to relax more as she speeds toward adulthood, if I knew that we were all following the same set of rules. But sadly we aren’t She will experience the rules as I’ve taught her, and then come face-to-face with others who seemingly don’t have any. She will be cut off as she makes her way toward her avenue, and she will experience bold and aggressive adults who should know the rules and yet refuse to abide by them. She will be passed by if she’s going too slowly, and she will be condemned if she moves too quickly. Her right of way will be threatened, and she will still have to use caution when her light is green. And there won’t always be a guardrail to prevent her from going over a cliff of unknown proportions. All of the signs will be there, and it will be solely up to her to recognize them.
She won’t know it, or maybe one day she will look back and realize it, but I will be spending quite some time in her passenger seat as she tries to merge her way into life’s highway. Hopefully she will recognize the direction of each one-way street on her own, and be able to make the right decision. Hopefully she will understand that just because others in her path ignore the rules, it is still important for her to follow them. If I’ve taught her well, she will.
I am beginning to understand that this new test she faces is not hers alone, but also it is mine. Pray that I have successfully accomplished this goal, and that my daughter suffers no ill consequences as a result of my teaching ability. And pray also that I am able to see her through it, successfully, until such time as she can take the wheel on her own.
Katrina M. Nusbaum