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Andrew Birkhead
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Driving Lessons

Posted on August 30, 2011 in: Uncategorized by Andrew Birkhead

My daughter, Sarah, is learning to drive.  Like everything else, this task is vastly different and more complicated than when I was 16.  Back then driver’s ed could be as simple as my old man, as my father liked to call himself, throwing me the car keys and saying ‘take me for a ride.’  Today there are rules.  Lots and lots of rules.  Instruction must be by a professional over a prescribed number of hours including the number of practice hours, which are logged and attested to by a responsible adult.  That’s where I come in, the tense man in the passenger seat of the grey Toyota Matrix.

Bearing witness to Sarah’s learning process is my job as her father.  One time it was riding a bike, another was spelling words, then it was leadership.  One difficult day I listened to her tearfully tell me the lesson she learned, that some men are violent assholes.  Holding space for Sarah’s learning process, as difficult as it can be, has given me many gifts over the years.  At first I thought my job was to sit patiently in the passenger seat while alternating between sage instruction sprinkled with driving stories and praise.  Later I discovered that once again, there are two students.  I’m teaching Sarah about navigating the world as an adult, this time in a car, and she’s teaching me about trust.  Until now the trust has been decidedly one sided.  “You trust me with your very existence and I’ll trust you to do your level best.”

In the passenger seat of the Matrix (which is named Shahniquah but that’s another story) I realized that the tables have been turned.  My life was literally in Sarah’s hands.  I trusted that my daughter, with 1 hour of driving experience would safely convey us to our destination.  I assure you that it was no simple task to remain calm while Sarah navigated rush hour traffic filled with more cars and curbs than I remember.  I’m happy to report that we arrived safely home with both car and psyche’s intact.  I’m looking forward to the next lesson from Sarah, the patient teacher.

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