My oldest daughter is learning to drive. It gives her a chance to bond with me as she practices behind the wheel. It gives me a chance to pray from the passenger seat.
“I really like driving with you, Dad,” she said a few days ago. “You don’t yell at me like Mom does.”
(Please, don’t hit this parked car, I thought. Please. Please!)
“I’m fairly patient,” I replied. “Please make sure you’re staying near the center line.”
A few minutes later, she dreamt of six months from now.
“I can’t wait to get my license,” she said. “I’ll be able to go wherever I want.”
(Like to school, I thought. And dance classes. And to drive your sisters around town, so I don’t have to leave the house at night.)
“When you’re ready for that responsibility,” I responded, “you’ll realize there’s a lot to it.”
She’s one of the older kids in her group of friends.
“I could probably take my friends around too,” she said.
(As long as they’re going to school, I thought. And dance classes. And to drive your sisters around town, so I don’t have to leave the house at night.)
“When you’re 16, I think you’re only allowed to have one passenger who isn’t a relative,” I replied.
Then she made a turn.
“That was a pretty good turn, wasn’t it?” she asked.
(When I was learning to drive, I remember learning about a three-point U-turn. It kind of felt like that, except we didn’t turn around.)
“You’ll want to make it a little smoother, without stopping,” I responded. “And try to make the turn a little tighter so you’re all the way in the right lane.”
We headed into the countryside near our house.
“Am I going too fast?” she asked.
(Perhaps in a school zone, I thought.)
“No, you can go all the way up to 55 out here,” I responded. “It’s OK out here. In fact, other drivers expect it. You have to look at your speed yourself while noticing your surroundings.”
She swerved a little, while staying in her lane.
“Sorry about that,” she said.
(I thought back to my own driving lessons as a teen. I almost drove into a field once with the driving instructor when he mentioned something about the crops.)
“You just have to be careful and make little adjustments, not big ones,” I said.
Then she starts to dream about adulthood.
“Some day, I’ll move away and be on my own,” she said, pausing and thinking.
(I thought about a little 4-year-old girl who couldn’t even walk the corn maze without being carried for half of it. Now she wants to drive. She wants her independence. She wants to be a grown woman.)
“You’re growing up,” I said. “But don’t rush it. You have the rest of your life to be an adult. Enjoy being a kid for now.”