My son had his third lesson driving a standard shift car. He’d been driving for well over a year on his own and his Dad thought that he should gain some experience with driving something other than an automatic transmission car. I was never as brave as my husband about teaching the kids to drive. I knew when our oldest wanted to drive that my nerves would never stand the strain. When our youngest started zooming by on her go-cart. bumping and bouncing over gopher holes, flying around the yard at breakneck speeds, with high pitched squeals of delight drowning out my “Be careful!” yells as she passed me; yeah…there was NO WAY I was going to teach that child to drive! That job went to her father. He survived the task and all three kids are probably better drivers than I am now.
That reminded me of something I wrote when my son started to drive several years ago. I flashback on it now because I recently got a new car and driving back to work everyday I have had to seriously watch my speed. My new car is far more peppy than my van ever was! So this is just a reminder to me of a humbling experience…
A Humbling Experience (2008)
I enjoy spending time with my kids. Now that they are teenagers, it’s hard to pull them away from their friends or other “pursuits” to spend some good quality, one on one time with me, their Mom. Lately I feel like I am imposing on them whenever I suggest we do something together.
“Carmen, do you want to go for a walk with me?” She is busy multi-tasking, watching Hannah Montana on T.V., talking on MSN while checking Facebook on her computer and text messenging her friend Kaylee at the same time. Oh, and she’s eating a bowl of popcorn too, while playing Nintendogs on her DS game. “Huh?” she responds and barely acknowledges my presence.
I sigh and decide to enter the inner sanctum that is my son’s room. Screamo Metal Music assails my ears. He is barely awake…it’s nearly noon…
“Brett!” I yell. “Wha…” he responds.
No way can I lure him with a walk so instead I say, “I was thinking that we need to pick up a few things at Walmart for school, wanna come?” Amazingly, he reacts with enthusiasm.
He yawns, “Let me take a shower first…maybe we could go to West 49 too…” Yeah, dream on son. Still I am excited…finally I’ll get to have some good quality time with my son. Today will be monumental!
While he is showering, three of his friends have called leaving messages for him to hang out with them. I am debating not telling him because then he will be lost to me again, but instead I reluctantly tell him about the phone calls and he surprises me again…”Nah, I’ll come with you, Mom.” I’m thinking he is the greatest son alive or he must really want me to detour from Walmart to the mall badly! Anyway, cynacism aside I excitedly wait in the van for my angelic son to join me on what I believe will be the greatest mother- son day ever!
“Awww,” he says, “I wanted to drive.” he says when he gets into the van.
Now, here’s my dilemma. Brett is just learning to drive. He is actually a very careful, good driver and is overly cautious at least when he is under parental supervision. However, I am an extremely nervous Mom. It doesn’t matter that he’s a great driver, I am not ready to be his co-pilot yet. That is his father’s job, not mine. His Dad has the calmness and quick reflexes needed in case something goes awry. I sit with my purse in my lap, holding on tight and praying that God will send protective angels around the car. THIS is not a good influence on my son. It’s not his fault. He needs encouragement, not a neurotic Mom sitting beside him reciting the 23rd Psalm under her breath. Anyway, I just shrug and say, “Maybe you can drive next time.” Yeah, as if.
The trip into Walmart is quiet. He is still half asleep in the passenger seat. He has his IPOD plugged into his ear. I try to talk to him but he’s plugged in so he doesn’t hear me. Oh well, I think to myself, the day is yet young.
He wanders around Walmart politely following after me. I pick up a few non-essential school supply items that I probably could have waited to pick up but used that for the excuse to get him to come with me so I have to buy them…
He goes through the electronic department and glances at the latest Wii games available but shows little enthusiasm about being there overall. I’m thinking that I have to salvage the day somehow. Perhaps I should let him drive home, and then the wrestling match goes on in my head. I’m too nervous…he’s a good driver…what if I scream?…I’ll shake his confidence…what if he makes a mistake, (a terrible, horrible, no good mistake that young driver’s tend to make and we die in a terrible, horrible, no good FIRE BALL of road carnage…ahhhhhhhh!) Yeah, my neurotism wins. I slip into the driver’s seat without looking at my son.
He doesn’t comment when I turn up the radio. I’m a little guilty that I’ve disappointed him. This day was not at all how I wanted it to turn out. The music gets a little louder…the “oldies” station. He wants to put in his screamo music and to appease my son and my guilt I say, “OK. But I just want to hear this last song …Born to be Wild!” He laughs. I laugh. I have redeemed the day with my son. I feel the love. I feel the music vibrate throughout the van…I am singing. My son is laughing. This is what it means to connect with my teenage son! I almost want to cry with happiness and then almost instantaneously the moment is gone.
The only car on the road other than myself is a police SUV cruiser traveling in the opposite direction…unfortunately I have passed him going 30 kmh over the speed limit and the next thing I see is his doing an abrupt U turn with lights and sirens flashing…I am busted.
I pull over, roll down my window and I’ve already taken out my driver’s license before the police officer has come to the window. “I know, I was speeding,…” I say guiltily. “I was listening to my music, I wasn’t watching my speed…I am sorry.” The officer has never had someone confess to something so readily in his entire life I’m sure. “I should have let my son drive.” I say, and the officer smiles at Brett who has a combination Cheshire Cat smirk on his face and a slightly concerned…’my Mom is getting a ticket’ realization. I say to the officer, “At least I can show my son how to receive a speeding ticket gracefully.”
I try not to cry. The last traffic ticket I got was 26 years previous. I am shaken. I am embarrassed. My son now “owns” me. He will never let me live this one down. I deserve it. My perfect, glorious day with my son is shattered.
The officer comes back and says, “I have to give you a ticket.” Yeah, I knew that…”But I’ve shown you some grace…” I look at the ticket…he has written my speed at 20 kmh less than he originally clocked me. I almost want to hug him. “Thank-you.” I smile with relief.
He smiles at Brett. They exchange the look that says, “No need to make her suffer more than she is right now.”
Rather than laugh at me, rather than make snide comments, rather than joke about my shame, Brett encourages me all the way home. He doesn’t make excuses for me, I am guilty but he encourages me still. He has every right to point and laugh, to say “I told you so” but he doesn’t. He has every right to condemn me. He hugs me when we get out of the car and my day rather than being ruined is once again restored to its previous splendor.
That is grace.