BY JENNY B
Have you ever watched a child pretending to drive? I remember my friend Lindsay joking as we began our high school driver’s ed course that one of her earliest memories was her dad’s terror at her first driving experience. She was only a few years old when he let her sit on his lap and ‘help’ pull the car from the back to the front of the driveway while they were waiting for the rest of the family. Her first instinct at how to drive a car was to wildly swing the steering wheel, sharp left to sharp right. Even inching along at the rate of 0-5 miles per hour, she remembers her dad’s instant panic as the wheels of the car swung sharply toward the brick of their house and then the neighbors’, and bringing that idea for ‘a game’ quickly to an end. Yes, her family had a good laugh and reminded her of the last time she was ‘allowed to drive’, as we begin as 15-year-olds to really learn and take responsibility for operating a 1-ton machine on the open road.
I’ve watched my daughter play in plastic, toddler-sized toy cars. Her instincts are the same, to wildly maneuver the steering wheel, even when she can see that it sharply changes the direction she is moving in. Try the experiment sitting while waiting in a parked, real car, and she will add in pushing every button and turning every knob on the dashboard. This is her idea of driving and being in control.
While I support using every tool you have in your experience, she and I have different ideas about what it means to operate in control. Many adults with the benefit of a longer timeline of life experience and physical maturity of the brain will be smiling by now. Because we know that being a good driver does equate to applying your energy and attention to pushing buttons and turning the wheel just because you can.
You see where I am going with this, right? As an adult in the broader context of life, this has caused me to reflect on being in control of not just my car, but my health, my life:
The last one, which turns the context to the more external, social, and goal-oriented is the adult perspective. My child’s experience is all about the joy of getting to play with the car. She is just playing and not trying to get anywhere or be ‘on time.’ How we operate in relation to others gets a lot of attention. Still, I would encourage you to not pass so quickly over the first 2 questions, and look inward for yourself.
In driver’s ed, they taught us the ‘Rules of the Road’: How to Operate a Car Safely in Public. If you stop at that threshold in other areas of your life, it’s like taking pride in saying, “I am confident that I know how to chew and swallow my food when I go out to a nice meal at a restaurant, so I do not choke and need to be given the Heimlich maneuver.” Better to ask: Are you eating food you enjoy? Is it nourishing your body, relationships, and future? Those are the type of nuanced, next-level questions that can make the difference beyond just getting by at a basic level.
We have been asking a lot of these questions in my household, lately, in an attempt to better ourselves and question some of the patterns we have adopted, especially as work and family life got busier in our 30s. Even in times of crisis, it’s bringing some joy back to our days to implement small changes like new and healthier foods, instead of the same go-to, easy dinner. Or, video calling with some of the extended family/friends circle, when, perhaps, we’ve been leaning heavily on our inner, obvious circle, for months, now.
In reflecting on Father’s Day 2020 this past weekend, nothing is perfect. But, we are a little healthier and happier for opening ourselves up to our higher minds and aspirations.
Special shout out to my husband who is a great dad and pictured in the photo with our daughter. He said the most swoon-worthy thing the morning I was writing this, which felt ‘out of nowhere’. But, as we know, so many experiences that come ‘out of nowhere’ have a long history of being shaped. He said, “I don’t know why we have a Father’s Day and a Mother’s Day. I believe in equality, and it’s not like we are providing uniquely different things for our daughter. It should just be Parents’ Day.”
Swoon. And, that was the first time I was truly grateful for all the hard work and conversations we’ve had to have put in this year. It feels like we are finally getting beyond the basics and starting to enjoy driving.
Archives by Month