How many times have you so badly wanted to fix something for your child because you could see the imminent pain looming around the corner headed in their direction? But, you know deep down that overcoming challenges is just part of life and the key to growth, and that it’s not your job to fix it. You know in your heart there is nothing you can do but sit back, breathe and allow them to walk down their path.
If only it were that easy to rationalize.
The biggest challenge for us as parents is allowing our children to live their lives; the good, the bad and the ugly. We, understandably, want to fix everything and make it all better so they don’t have to feel any pain, but truly our only job is to be loving and supportive while they move through these experiences, not to fix them. Of course, it’s difficult to watch them struggle, but each of these lessons is teaching them something they need to learn, and we may never know why, but I can assure you that they learn a lot more from these experiences then they do sitting happily on the couch playing video games.
My son, for instance, started driver’s training right around age 16. He was in no rush. He eventually took the first class, Segment I, and failed the written test the first time around. He was shocked and sad, and it was hard to watch because I know how disappointed he was in himself. He has a lot of pride and couldn’t believe everybody else past but him. Thankfully, he passed the second time around, by a hair.
After Segment I, and a certain amount of drive time, it was on to Segment II. My son was so reluctant to drive though; I could feel it in him. Frankly, I was no help. I was equally anxious about the whole experience, especially driving with him. What are they thinking making parents teach their own kids to drive!
As a mom, I wanted to respect where he was at, but at the same time I wanted to motivate him to keep moving forward. At least six months later, he accumulated enough miles to sign up for the next segment. He passed the class, and a few months later we signed him up for the driving test; the final step before getting his license.
We arrived at the test and he seemed fine, until the instructor started giving him directions, “Pull into this space”, “Back into that space”, “Turn right” and the dreaded parallel parking! As I watched, I could see the sweat dripping and the color leave his face. He couldn’t hear a word this man was telling him. The instructor said “Turn right”, my son turned left. Whatever his instruction was, my son did the opposite. I’ve never seen him that panicked. Needless to say, he failed the test. And again, he was devastated because he let himself down so badly, at least in his mind. As an adult, I know this was just a moment in his life, not something that will define him or ever really matter in the future, but to him it was everything.
Weeks went by and because of scheduling conflicts he couldn’t retake the test for 7 weeks, and to make matters worse, he barely spent any time practicing, despite my urging. The day of the test came and my stomach was in knots all day. I was so sick to my stomach, I almost left work early. I just couldn’t get it under control. I drank my ginger tea which usually takes care of any stomach discomfort, and even that didn’t work!
We arrived at the test that evening and his parking was beautiful; the part he failed the first time. We got on the road and he was so concerned about going over the speed limit, an automatic fail, he was making many thoughtless mistakes. My heart was sinking as I sat in the back seat forbidden to speak; also an automatic fail for the Mama to talk during the test. I did my best to breathe and let my son live his life, and even though I knew this was not a big deal in the scheme of things, I could see and feel my sons stress as if it were my own. Once the test was over, I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was jump into bed and sleep for a week, it took so much out of me.
Thankfully, he passed, by the skin of his teeth, and he got his license one month shy of his 18th birthday.
So why was it so personal for me? Was it just my love for my son, and/or was he reflecting something in me I needed to uncover? Kids are the best at showing us what we need to see, so if I was having this kind of visceral reaction to my son’s experience, I needed to do some exploring.
When I looked back on the past two years, it reminded me how unprepared he was; he didn’t put everything he had into it, and because of that, things did not work out exactly as he had hoped. I know that had my son practiced more, with consistency, this would have been a lot easier for him, but he simply wasn’t ready, and I had to respect that.
So of course I had to ask myself where in my life have I have been inconsistent and not putting my all into it – ah, my day job! While I have been working in the same field for the past 4 years, and 5 years prior to having children, I really have been half-assing it! I was working part-time, freelancing and not really committing myself to the process of a career, all the while whining that I wasn’t making enough money to support my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I put 100% of myself into every job I’ve ever done, for the benefit of my employer, but in the process I didn’t give 100% to myself, driving my career in the direction that would lead me to the life I so desperately desired.
Good find, I love a good treasure hunt!
I knew that there was more though because I still wasn’t feeling better, so I continued to dig. I needed to figure out why I was so bothered by the fact that my son wasn’t motivated to do something that was seemingly so important to him. What was I unmotivated to take care of that was important to me? Oh yes, dating!
I noticed that I have not been making much of an effort to date, despite the fact that I have been single for 12 years and I regularly tell myself I want to be in a relationship. I feel the same apprehension in myself when I think about dating, dating websites, first dates, etc. as I felt with my son’s apprehension towards driving. I’m telling you, our kids show us everything we need to see! Ah, now I feel better.
The good news is, I have committed myself to a full-time job that starts next week, and I am grateful to finally be moving forward in my career. My second son is turning 16 in a few months too, so I get a do-over! Yay! I hope this time around I handle things better. I’m sure he would appreciate that too! I haven’t quite figured out the dating piece yet…I’m pacing myself!