>> Jun 11, 2013
My mistakes have been made and I have learned my lessons. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty; I heard that somewhere and have found it to be very much the truth in my life. I am hopeful that I can help at least one set of parents and one teen that may be heading down the same destructive road filled with heartache that I have been on. It may sound melodramatic as you read this but believe me it is even worse than it sounds.
It has been several years of heartache now and we are finally on the upward climb again. By God’s great grace we are starting to see the progress again in my son’s life instead of the nose dive he found himself in for the last several years. As a parent where does the blame go? To me of course, and I can not even say “us” since I am a single parent. Yes, from time to time I get a critical analysis of what I am doing wrong and suggestions on how to handle different situations but it all boils down to me. I know my limitations and I am not the world’s best parent but I sure do try hard.
I know that what has been going on in our lives for the past few years has not only been a learning experience for my son but maybe even more for me. I am not in control of anything, there is absolutely nothing I can do on my own, I need to draw on the one who is in charge and rest in Him. I may not be talking to people who have the same belief system that I do and I do not mean to offend but I am simply sharing what my heavenly Father has been showing me about myself as He is also delivering my son.
I will fill you in from the beginning, which was approximately twelve years ago. My daughter, who is seven years older than my son, was coming upon the legal driving age. She was an excellent student, a very responsible child, but somewhat of a timid child when it came to doing things that seemed dangerous to her. A couple years prior to this time we were on a family biking outing and we had a little pile up because I stopped short after seeing a large truck turn the corner and was unwilling to take the chance of crossing with my daughter behind me. She was twelve or thirteen at the time. After this little accident she was unwilling to ride her bike ever again. You see what I mean? As much as I tried to encourage her it was all over. So when it came time to drive I was concerned that if I did not get her behind the wheel immediately she would never drive. The town we live in is not conducive to walking everywhere you go since according to the census in 2011 we have more than 2.1 million people in our fair city.
So I put her in driver’s education class and of course because she was such a brilliant student she aced the written test and did wonderful on paper but then it became time to do the actual driving with the instructor. There are usually two other students in the car as well as the instructor in this scenario and my daughter was not what you would call adventurous, a risk taker, and she got really nervous doing new things around people she did not even know. But she pushed on for my sake because she is smart and I told her it would be good for her and she needed to do this. The first trip out of the barrel when it was her turn to drive it turned ugly. She was driving fine and then she made the wrong decision at a stop sign. She moved out into traffic and did not realize that the truck that was coming was moving so quickly. They almost got hit and after getting through this harrowing experience she stopped the car where it was, got out, looked the instructor in the eyes and said, “I’m done, you drive now.” Well, okay. When we went to pick her up the instructor came to our car and told us that he was sorry, she did beautifully on the written part but she had failed and we would have to re-enroll her. She was apologetic and I was not angry or really surprised. But I did not give up and she was willing to try again.
After doing it all again she passed. She began by taking the same path from home to school with no variation in the route, and then she added her path to work as well. She knew how to get to the closest store and drug store and she was okay with that. But as I expected, the more she drove the more confident she became and is a wonderful driver today. She now has a job that is on the other side of our fair city and she drives it with confidence mixed with a lot of irritation and ill-will towards the traffic.
So, when my son became of age to take driver’s education seven years later and began to prod me and pester me about getting enrolled I did not really give it much thought, I just signed him up. After he got into the class my daughter and I began to talk about it a bit and recall her days in driver’s education. I began thinking about my reasoning with her and thought to myself that I had not given this much thought. His grades were fair, not because it was hard for him but because he did not care. He was not really responsible with his things but was doing okay, and he was not working but he was in high school so that was okay. He had not been in any serious trouble and after all I allowed his sister and I had gotten my learner’s permit at fifteen and started driving at sixteen too. No big deal, right?
Wrong. The first day that my son was allowed to drive alone after getting his license there was a notable change in his attitude. Still to this day I do not know where it came from. It may be just a guy thing but I do not think so. I was concerned but he was a good driver, seemed to have a natural instinct for driving. I had been letting him drive with me since getting the permit and so had his grandmother and his sister. We all commented on what a good driver he was and the instructor assured us that my son was really good at driving even though he barely passed the written part. He told me it was boring. That should have been a sign or something.
Anyway, after a couple weeks of being allowed to drive to school I began to notice that he was getting absences from different classes. We have the ability to get online and check our children’s grades and absentee records. He assured me that he was just tardy and the teacher missed counting him. After a few of these incidents I got wise and told him that if he did not stay at school he would not be allowed to drive. He would straighten up for awhile but then I noticed he was becoming more and more confrontational and belligerent. He was not answering his cell phone when I would call and he was staying gone all the time with one thing or the other.
I would take away the car and then his behavior would change and when he got his privileges back we would have the same situation all over again. He was hanging with a totally different crowd because those were the kids that were living on the edge as he was beginning to. He began taking drugs, skipping school, and not working on his school work. By this time it did not matter if he had the car or not he would just jump in the car with one of his new friends if I would not let him use the car. I still do not completely understand what happened except that he was not ready for the responsibility, the freedom that having a car gave, and the maturity was not there. When he found out he could walk out of school and get into a vehicle he discovered he had the right to choose what he did and did not want to do. It is so surprising to me what a single event can trigger in someone’s life.
I could go on and on about the events that took place from this point on but they are not what is important. What I am saying is that you have to make sure that each individual one of your children are ready for this responsibility/privilege regardless of the fact that their older or their younger sibling gets to do it. It is not about being fair it is about being wise. It is about doing what is best for that individual child. If they are not handling the rest of their lives with the utmost maturity and responsibility this is one privilege they should not be allowed to have.
By God’s wonderful, marvelous grace my son made it through his teen years but not without much heartache and much prayer. God has taught me through all of this that I am not in control but He is and if I turn to Him and surrender my son before Him (or anyone or anything for that matter) that He can and will perform a work in their lives as well as mine. God has brought my son out of drugs, got him through high school, delivered him from legal problems, helped him to have the wisdom to get away from the wrong kinds of friends, and is still working in his life today. Each day I praise God for what he is accomplishing in my son’s life and in mine because in God we can be victorious.
I urge you with all my heart not to give your children responsibilities they cannot handle. Think things over and pray things over with the Lord long before you consent to anything in this arena and your kids. If they need to prove themselves and mature longer than a sibling then so be it. Share your concerns with your teen and tell them that they are not ready; if they get upset with you it does not matter. It is far better than the consequences of what could happen if you allow them the opportunity to do something they cannot handle. It could be even worse than what my son went through; it could go as far as loss of life. Of theirs or someone that is with them.