You Only Fail
By Patricia Chadwick
Whoever said that it was a parent's job to teach their children to drive? Must have been a kid. I think that should definitely be deleted from our job description! Well, mine anyway.
My oldest, who is now 18, decided that he needed to get his license by the first day of college. He decided this at the beginning of summer. Not that he was putting any pressure on me, mind you. What an experience it has been teaching that boy to drive. I think I deserve a medal - or at least a special prize. I don't recall asking for the assignment, but some how I was recruited to be his teacher.
Junior got his permit at 16 but didn't really have an interest in driving until his sister got her license before him. As graduation loomed closer, he began getting a hankering to hit the road on something other than a bike. But the clincher was when dear Grandma offered to help them both get a car of their own to share (it seems they didn't care to drive around in my Caravan affectionately dubbed "The Woody"). It was then he was determined to get his license. And it was then that I was enlisted to be his instructor.
We made a deal. I would share my vast knowledge of the road accumulated over 25 years of driving experience and he would listen and learn. Well, that was the deal I made anyway. It seems he felt a little differently about the situation than I did. We did both commit to driving everyday for a month before signing up for his road test.
So he drove. I instructed (though he said it was more like yelling) and he ignored me whenever he could. It is surprising how much more he knew than me, even though he'd never really driven before! *sigh* Eventually I calmed down, he began to listen, and he began driving quite well. I was impressed. We signed him up for his first road test and waited.
The fateful day came. Junior was a nervous wreck; so nervous that he made some mistakes that cost him the chance to get his license that day. I felt so bad for him. He had so counted on having his license that day. And I really thought he was ready. So we ran right home and got online and signed up for another road test. Luckily there was a cancellation so he got to take the test again 3 days later.
We got there early and waited. I tried to calm him down, but he was still very tense. Too tense. He was so nervous he made mistakes again that cost him that passing grade by five points. He was so discouraged. I know he felt like crying, but he managed to stay composed. He felt like such a failure. I didn't blame him. I knew I had to say something that would stop him from giving up. When he said, "Mom, I'm such a failure" I told him, "You are only a failure when you quit trying." So we signed up again.
He practiced some more and built up his confidence. When Road Test day came again, he was ready. He had to leave work to take the test, but this time he was more confident. And it showed. He passed the test with flying colors. I never saw him smile so much. He just about beamed he was so happy. He passed, just in the nick of time - 3 days before college started.
I'm so glad he didn't give up. I felt so bad that he failed two times before passing, but Junior learned some valuable lessons in the process. First, driving isn't as simple as it looks (and for that matter mom knows a bit more than he thought). Second, having confidence is a very important part of succeeding. Finally, never give up. After he'd passed he told me, "I guess you were right, Mom. You aren't a failure unless you give up. I'm glad I didn't quit." I just smiled. So am I son. So am I.