Driving Lessons

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My oldest son is learning how to drive.

A year ago he felt lost to me, much of his time spent alone on the computer. His grades were poor, his attitude resentful. There was no trouble in school, no alcohol or drugs, no police at my door. During our rare conversations it was clear he wasn't playing video games, but devouring the news. He formed strong opinions about many things, including his education, and he began to question going to college just to move home and work at Starbucks afterwards. While his peers stressed about grades, my son began to think the emperor had no clothes. He could get that job at Starbucks, save 50k in student loans and call it a day.

Then the driving began and I saw my son come to life. He took the online course, peppering me with questions as we took an extended drive to Oregon, even chancing a turn at the wheel. He easily passed the written test. Then my training began. It's difficult to teach something so automatic, you forget what you're doing for miles at a time. I became aware of every nuance of the road and I dreaded his requests to practice due to the anxiety that came with it. The turning point was parking practice in an empty lot, a few months into his instruction. As he doggedly improved, I finally relaxed into the joy of watching my oldest child learn one final task from me.

We're in the homestretch now. Our drives have the easy rhythm that comes from being comfortable with our work together. His resentment has been replaced by the conversations I've been longing for: how he has decided to go to college, how he regrets letting his grades slip and must now correct for his mistakes. My son won't be going to Stanford, but he has taught me that dream isn't as important as accepting your child for who they are and what they dream of. I'm proud of him because he can think for himself, recognize his errors, adjust his course and keep moving.

These skills have served him well as a driver, as they will in life.  


With a Perspective, I'm Lisa Tobin.

Lisa Tobin is a psychologist. She lives in Santa Clara.