As my son and I were driving home the other day, we started a discussion about paying attention to the road ahead, and he mentioned that it was hard for him to get out of the habit of looking at the road immediately in front of the car. I, on the other hand, like to be able to see at least 3 cars ahead, and will change lanes to avoid being behind a large or dark-tinted vehicle that prevents that foresight. As we talked about being prepared for what lies ahead, I postulated that perhaps that was one of the major differences between teenagers and adults. Maybe it’s all in the point of view.
After all, it’s around the time they start driving that the typical teenager is first exposed to looking and planning ahead, both literally and metaphorically. That’s also about the same time he starts having more serious and longer-term relationships, thinking about working and earning his own money, and considering his options for college and future occupations. It’s a whole new concept for him to live for more than just the moment and his immediate gratification. He may still have those “I want it all right now” tendencies, but he begins to learn to balance them with the idea of preparing for his own future. He starts to want to take over the planning from his parents, and to have more control over his destiny.
Adults, on the other hand, tend to have learned through experience the value of looking past the “right now” to see the benefit of something better down the road. An adult wants to perceive what’s coming (to the extent possible) and be prepared for contingencies. For myself, I know that while I have no trouble making decisions, I like to hedge my bets and base them on as much accurate information as possible. I do my best to look at a situation from every angle when involves people besides myself, and especially if that person is my son. That way, I can feel I’ve made the best decision possible for everyone involved.
I admit I’ve made some bad decisions in the past. But I think my track record has improved. At the very least, I’ve been an example to my son of thinking for yourself and taking chances to find what’s best for you and those for whom you are responsible. We don’t have a perfect relationship by any means, but we do talk more than a lot of parents and kids I know, and most of that wouldn’t be possible without some of the decisions I’ve made in the last few years.
It’s startling sometimes how often I learn things about life while I’m “teaching” him. As I coach him in his driving, I hope he will learn to see the analogies between driving and life, and I hope I’m preparing him well for both.