On Sharing a Car with My Son

Daniel, our 25-year-old son, and I have been sharing a car for several months since he totaled his 1993 (or was it 1994?) Maxima at the end of September 2011. This is the third time in three years that we have been forced by circumstances to share a car for a while. The other two times we helped him find another car.

This time, our young man is on his own. We figured he would learn some valuable life lessons by saving for a car and that maybe, just maybe,  he might drive a bit more carefully if he knew what it took to save his own money and to find a car.

One of the unexpected pleasures that has resulted from this time of waiting is watching Daniel grow up. Before he took a part-time job at Barnes & Noble Vanderbilt in December, he was in the habit of sleeping most of the day. I teased him (sometimes impatiently) that he took sleeping to the level of an Olympic sport.

I wondered whether he could make it out of bed, night owl that he is, in time to get to work by 8:30 a.m. at first and now 8:00. Some mornings I heard his alarm go off repeatedly but there were no signs of life afterward. I’d knock on his door and say, “Daniel, are you awake?” His reply was usually something like, “Working on it.” I’d say, “Last call” and head downstairs to finish getting ready.

For a while this was our pattern, and I felt somewhat guilty for “enabling” him to by prodding him awake like a child in the morning.  But we (he, his dad, and I) wanted him to succeed at this job, because Papa John’s, his other employer, had drastically reduced his hours since his September accident, which removed him from being able to drive and deliver. He was getting about 10 hours a week inside the store, compared with around 30 hours a week before his accident.

Somewhere along the way he began to take responsibility for his own waking up. In recent weeks he has stayed home on nights before he has to be at work at 8:00 a.m. We had suggested that many times previously, but he had to come to his own conclusion that he couldn’t enjoy the night life with his friends until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and expect to wake up at 7:00 ready to function at work for 7.5 to 8 hours.

Much of parenting a young adult (and I never thought when I was in my earlier years of child raising that I would still be parenting at this stage) involves shifting from the authority figure to a consultant/coach. It’s hard sometimes watching young adults make mistakes as they strike out on their own, but it’s a necessary stage in their development. They need the freedom to fail and not be rescued by well-intentioned parents; that only hinders the process of becoming a responsible adult.

Sometimes they come up with wonderful solutions to problems, and the parent gets educated about creative ways to respond to challenges. Maturity is a two-steps-forward, one-step-backward process, and it’s sort of messy. Come to think of it, that is also true of life in general. One of my aunt’s sayings comes to mind: “You have to learn to roll with the punches.” (Ouch, those punches sometimes hurt.)

One serendipity that has resulted from these months of sharing a car is getting to know Daniel better. He has a quirky sense of humor, and you have to be quick to catch it.  I am beginning to appreciate his unique slant on life. This is the son whom I described in his younger years as an “old soul.” When he was 9 and we were talking about moving to another house, he said, “I want a place with a creek and a hillside where I can go sit and watch the sun set.” That sounded pretty good to me.

We didn’t move until his senior year of high school. Our backyard does slope downward, so I guess he has his hill. There is no creek really close to our property, but there is one in the neighborhood. I don’t think he’s spent a lot of time at home contemplating, but what do I know? Our children lead secret lives away from their parents. They are really gifts from God, and I’ve grown to treasure them more and more the older they get.

Sometimes I hear them repeating things John and I have said to them. It’s a little disconcerting sometimes to have your own words tossed back at you in a manner you didn’t intend when you said them. 😀 But we all are still learning at this stage of our journey. May it ever be so.

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