Equipping the Teenage Driver

August 10th, 2012 by | Print

 My almost 15-year old son started driver’s training this week so I took him out for a little test drive to get him ready to hit the road.  I was amazed at how little he knew about the intricacies of driving – blinkers, wipers, high beams, etc.  Then I flashed back to my first driving experience….

 At around the same age, my mom unexpectedly parked the car on an abandoned stretch of dirt road and announced that I was going to drive for the first time.  Her only real instruction was to put the car in drive and go slowly.   I was doing about 25 MPH when I came upon my first turn.  As I approached my left hand turn, I didn’t brake at all and just jerked the wheel and made a ridiculously sharp turn in our 1979 Green Duster.  We fish-tailed back and forth a couple of times until I managed to get the car straightened out.  To this day I have no idea how the car stayed on the road.

 My visibly shaken mother demanded that I pull over right away.  With tears and fear in her eyes she asked me why I didn’t brake while rounding the curb.  “Nobody ever told me you have to brake when making a turn”, I answered.  “Haven’t you been watching us drive all these years?” she wondered.  Somehow I must not have made the brake/turn correlation during my 15 years of back seat spectating.  I guess we only learn so much from passive participation.  And the same thing is true for fathering.

 As a father I spend way too much time “osmosis fathering” – remaining silent and expecting my boys to just watch me and “get it”.  I forget that these little formative minds are empty chalk boards needing to be filled with all the necessary information for life.  And it’s my primary job as a father to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of ways to learn and role modeling is huge.  But the most important thing we can do as fathers is to engage our boys in active dialogue and proactively teach them the ways of manhood.  

 I grew up with a strong and stable father presence in my life but I have to admit until recently I’ve never felt like much of a man.  For most of my adult life I’ve pretty much functioned with the mindset of a teenage boy.   While I learned how to mask my insecurities with a cool and competent facade, I always wondered whether I had what it takes.  Sure I got married, had kids, bought a house, and developed a career.  I did all of the big boy things you’re supposed to do, but I always had a nagging suspicion that some vital masculine piece was missing at the very core of me. 

 You see, I never had a clear and compelling definition of manhood to propel me forward.   I didn’t have something real and transcending to pull me back when things were rough and I got off track.  One thing I know is that there’s a generation of boys out there who hunger to be taught the ways of manhood from a dad or male mentor.  And the lessons will not hit home if they are subtle or ambiguous…they must be specific, unvarnished, powerful and life-giving to hit home. 

 Because 99.9% of adult men don’t have a manhood paradigm of their own (I didn’t a couple of years ago), I wrote the Man Quest  book as a resource.  If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out the Man Quest Guideposts at www.manquestmovement.com.  Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers to start a manhood discussion with your son, nephew, grandson, mentee, or student.  He will appreciate your willingness to start him on the journey.  He will be grateful that somebody went over the “rules of the road” before handing him the keys to his manhood.

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