The View From the Passenger Seat
We had just left the DMV where my beautiful daughter Kaila had been issued her driver’s license. She was the tentative driver and I was the proud coach in the passenger seat–well at least as far as the first light where she didn’t brake fast enough for me and I didn’t respond quietly enough for her, and we both had a meltdown. We decided it was best to trade places so we rode in silence for most of the trip home until I decided we really could handle this and she went back to the wheel. I admit I did much better this time and lasted a full five minutes before shouting, “AAUUGHH! WHAT IN THE WORLD WERE YOU THINKING?” I know, I know! I should have waited to get home and patiently explain her mistake, but seeing my life flash before my eyes overruled my mouth and I blew it. I’m sorry to say we both realized that day that I make a lousy passenger seat pilot. However, if she is to learn to drive, I must learn to give up the controls and teach her without scaring her into permanent dependence.
That’s a lesson I’m learning in many areas right now. Just as in learning to drive, there comes a time in our children’s lives when we as moms must give up the wheel and let them take over. Trust me, it’s frightening in the beginning, but it is also necessary if our children are ever going to learn to navigate their own course and experience the joy of their own journey. I don’t like this part of parenting, but I also know it is a gift and a privilege that won’t last forever. Having a nineteen year old who will be spending the next two years nearly 10,000 miles away makes me realize how important this trip in the passenger seat is. All too soon it’s over and our children climb behind the wheel alone and drive off leaving us to pray that we’ve done a good job of training them.
So how can we send our children out with confidence that we’ve equipped them to navigate successfully without us, be it through town or through life? Here are some rules for the road and for life that will help, although I admit I haven’t mastered any of them:
- Teach them to read a map. They will have to journey beyond their current territory and need to know how to find the way. Whether it’s to chart their course or find their way back when they’re lost, they need a plan and in life there’s no better one than the Word of God which says in Psalm 32:8 (NLT), “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
- Teach them to be aware of the danger zones–those dark alleyways, dangerous embankments, slick roads, and drivers who are reckless and out of control that are not only detrimental but often fatal.
- Make sure they know who to call for help. Sometimes no matter how well they do, they end up stranded and need to know who to rely on and how to reach them. I want my children to know they can call on God and their parents at any time. God confirms it. In Psalm 46:1, we’re told He is a “present help in trouble”.
- Finally, encourage them when mistakes or poor decisions are made that it will get easier and remind them often that they are a work in progress. We all are! (Philippians 1:6)
So mamas, I hope you learn to enjoy the trip no matter where you are in the vehicle right now. Take time to enjoy the scenery first from behind the wheel with your children strapped in safely behind you, then from the passenger seat, and finally from the driveway as your children set off on their own journey. I pray when it’s time for me to step out of the vehicle altogether I can do it with grace and confidence so my children won’t look in the rearview mirror to see me chasing after them crying and flailing my arms (Yes, I am capable). I keep in mind though that teaching them to successfully navigate without me does not mean they will be alone. I simply make a transfer, giving them fully to the One who loves them more than I and will always lead the way.
Feel free to let me know where you are in the journey. In the meantime, I’ll be learning to enjoy the view from the passenger seat.