I had a nice long drive with Child #3 yesterday. She was in the driver’s seat! You may remember she got her learner’s permit a few weeks ago. This was my first long driving excursion with her. We have a system in our household. Dad takes them out for their first few driving sessions and gets them prepped for a drive with Mom. I have this tendency to establish a white-knuckle grip on the armrest and try to put my foot through the floorboard stomping on an imaginary brake. In addition to driving instructions I am also usually vocalizing a stream of Hail Mary’s and Guardian Angel prayers. This can be a bit unnerving if it is your first time behind the wheel.
Yesterday’s drive was different. A single Hail Mary as we started our drive was all that I needed. I don’t think I hit the floorboard more than once. I am much more comfortable driving with my daughter than I ever was (am?) comfortable driving with my sons. It may be that she is Child #3 and this is the third time I have experienced a new driver. But I think it is more than that. Her attitude is much different than the boys’. She has great respect for the power of the car and sees no need to push the envelope of its performance. Getting passed by other cars does not hurt her pride. When I offer instructions or suggestions she doesn’t respond with, “I know, Mom. I know, Mom!” She is keenly aware of the gaps in her knowledge. She readily admits she is in the learning phase. There is no bravado that requires her to keep up the appearance that she has driving mastered.
It does make me wonder why we give drivers’ licenses to boys at age 16 when they are right in the middle of a rush of excess testosterone. The power of a car and the swagger of maleness can be a frightening combination. I delayed the process with my older boys. No driver’s license until the Eagle Scout project was completed. They were each 17 going on 18 when they got their licenses. It was a little inconvenient for me to keep driving them places but it also saved me a few gray hairs. Even so, they were so much more cavalier about driving than their sister.
I love all my children and there are blessings and challenges with both boys and girls. When I began this parenting adventure I had this silly idea that children are much more a product of nurture than of nature. I tried buying my toddler sons toy brooms and kitchen sets. I refused to buy them guns or violent action toys. We don’t have guns in the house. The brooms quickly became rifles or long swords. Plastic chicken leg quarters became pistols. Very quickly I learned that each child comes with a unique personality and character. Boys are boys and girls are girls. They are not an empty slate that I complete. I influence them, but I do not create them. God has already done that.