Sunday, April 19, 2015

In the Driver's Seat

Over sixteen years ago I buckled my son into his car seat and as he looked out the rear window, his mother and I brought him home from the hospital. Eventually as he got older we would reverse the seat so that he could see through the front windshield. As the years continued to roll by, the car seat was eventually replaced by a booster seat and then the booster seat would give way to the seat belt.  My son however was still safely encumbered in the back seat. With each adjustment, his perspective as a passenger would change. He would see the world as it passed by a little bit differently. Then one day after we had entered " the teenage years" I heard the word,  "shotgun" and my son climbed in beside me inches away in the passengers seat. Indeed his perspective of the world in motion had changed once again.  Even though he had now taken residence in the front seat, his role in the automobile outside of potential navigator remained a passive one. Over the years while his perspective changed with each adjustment, mine never had.  The car was the one place where the roles were clearly defined and there was never any reason to challenge the status quo.
But then it happened ....

We received the triumphant news that my son had passed his written drivers test. Behind the wheel instruction, to be provided by his school, would begin in just a short while. Off to a local parking lot we went to practice.  When we arrived, I parked the car and both of us exited the vehicle. We would re-enter with my son occupying the drivers seat and me occupying the passenger seat. For the first time since that maiden voyage home from the hospital both of our perspectives were about to be altered. He was not only changing the location of his seat but now was assuming the control of the vehicle. I was not only changing my seat but I was giving up control. The status quo was changing.

 A rite of passage was transpiring right in front of my eyes that was empowering my son to take his first steps toward achieving his independence. He would not only control the direction of the vehicle that day but was moving closer to independently controlling the direction of his life. Symbolically and literally he was starting to choose his path and navigate it.  For a while longer I can ride along and provide guidance and support but in a very short time he will fly solo, accepting the keys  and with it a lifetime of responsibility and privilege.

Within a few short months my son will take his rightful place in the "drivers seat" and that is the way it should be. We empower our children little by little to become more and more independent throughout the course of  their lives. In the classroom and in the real world we encourage them to take control over their education and their lives. We celebrate their success and we provide a safety net when they fail. The day eventually arrives however when we need to take that leap of faith and confidently allow our children to assume control of their own lives.  Soon my son will face decisions that will need to be made that will effect his future and they will begin to come fast and furious, What college to attend? What major to choose? What jobs to apply for?  He will have the full support of his family but ultimately they will be his decisions to make.  The road ahead will provide its share of challenges, but from the "drivers seat" he will be more than capable of navigating them.