Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Driving, crying, and helicoptering

Natalie had her first behind the wheel driving lesson yesterday, and when I picked her up at the high school at 7:30, she got in the car and burst into tears immediately:  "I hate driving, I don't want to learn how to drive."  Unfortunately, it had been her first time behind the wheel. It had crept up on us, I hadn't realized that we were supposed to acclimate her a little, she had made zero effort to prioritize it over all of her activities (debate, mock trial, service hours, ultimate frisbee) or over the well-earned time she spends watching TV shows on her phone, relaxing.

So the first time she was behind the wheel was with a total stranger and another kid in the car. Not good. She was not confident steering, couldn't reach the brake properly, etc.

She is so self-possessed, so confident, so hard-working, so self-tending, we tend to forget she is vulnerable and needs guidance. On the one hand, I don't want to be controlling and helicoptering.  All we have really needed to do has been to facilitate with Natalie.

Which exposes us to blind spots like this one where perhaps we should have been more attentive. In the end, having a child is one of the ultimate lessons in powerlessness. There is only so much one can do.

One thing. It is clear that she is infected to some extent by the zeitgeist of college goal determinism, which is to say viewing getting into a prestigious college as her ultimate end. And how could she not be, as the daughter of Joe Yale Columbia PhD and Josephine Michigan Yale MFA, growing up in a place like Chapel Hill. If she didn't have a million things to read, I would give her Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be for Christmas. I should probably read it and digest it and look for ways to convey its meaning to her. Though I've read enough excerpts to get the gist of it.

In any case, after I picked her up last night, I took her to her favorite pizza place and got her a couple of slices, one of which she took for lunch today.

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