My son, my oldest, my-first-to-leave-the-nest has gotten his driver’s license. The teaching-your-child-to-drive experience was good for me. I had to think about and explain thoughts and actions that had been second nature for years. I had to be patient, alert, supportive, and willing to let go. This was all good. But there’s always a downside it seems, and teaching my son to drive turned out to be like so many other big life lessons: a tension between repeating over and over Always Do the Right Thing and admitting that Many Other People Will Not. They will not, but you must. Monitor your own behavior and beware.
As we became more and more adventurous, moving out of the subdivision and onto the main roads, I found the “defensive driving” mantra insufficient—emotionless, as if the roads were filled only with good people who sometimes make mistakes. When it was my child on the highway I called it “Scanning for Idiots.” You know—the people who go the wrong way down the one-way lane in the parking lot; the ones who don’t use their turn signals, or signal left and go right; the people who drive as if the rest of us were merely pylons on their personal race course. I see them so often they hardly register. But now I had to point them out, “Watch out, there’s another one!” It felt like we were in a video game with zombies lurking in the shadows. It made me uncomfortable to be so suspicious. I hated to be so cynical of human nature. I hated letting another polite fiction—the one about how adults behave responsibly—go up in a puff of smoke.
You start with “Don’t talk to strangers” but the lesson goes on and on. Look around before you step out into the meadow.