The first time I drove a stick-shift solo was on a road-trip from Texas to Utah. We had gone to Texas on our honeymoon and ended up staying for six months. (It’s true.) Then my DH’s brother, who also lived there, decided to move his family to Utah for a business opportunity and to offer a position to my DH. So we packed up his house and our few belongings from our apartment into a U-haul and set out.
The U-haul led, followed by either me in our car, or my sister-in-law in theirs. The last two cars traded positions as drivers switched off from the U-haul. It was a long drive and I became rather proficient with the shifting (once on the highways, there isn’t much shifting to do). Still, it was an indication to me of how much my DH trusted me with our new car.
Especially considering that when we had married six months before, I had two wrecks and a speeding ticket to my name. My confidence as a driver was rather pitiful then. My mother had even recruited a neighbor to take me driving for awhile. (Thanks Devi!) But in six months, (actually less), my DH had instilled in me the confidence I had lacked.
He had believed in my potential from when we first began to date. And not just in driving. He always saw my talents, strengths, and the woman I could become. And he told me so. Often.
When he taught me to drive a shift, he’d say, “It’s okay, you’re getting it,” and soon, “You’re a good driver.” He had me believing. He also told me I was beautiful. Every wife needs to feel she is beautiful to her husband, but it was the first time in my life anyone had said I was pretty.
Years later, as a father, he would tell our children how they were “the best,” how he was so thankful for them, and how much he believed in them. And he sincerely did.
The best emotional foundation we can give our children is when they know we believe in them. This is not a false self-esteem based on a medal for participation, but genuine emotion, sincerely expressed. Encourage rather than criticize. Compliment them when they are diligent, notice when they finish a task, and praise when they do it well.
Believe in them even when they make a bad choice. “I am disappointed that you did this. But we all make mistakes, and I believe in you that you can make the right choices next time.” (“However, this time I still have to remove a privilege. . .”)
His belief worked for me. I drove very well on my own for long hours on small highways through the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and into southern Utah. It was well after two in the morning when we stopped for gas and I said I was getting very tired. My brother-in-law didn’t realy listen, but replied something vague like, “it’s not much further.”
Back in the car when we neared the next major town, the U-haul showed no signs of taking an exit. Surely we’re not going to drive through the night! My eyes were having trouble staying open. It wasn’t time to switch drivers, so I had to think of a way to get relieved.
This was before cell phones, before we had two-way radios, or the CB radio that came in handy on other multi-car trips. If I were to honk in my own behalf, it wouldn’t do much good. So I tried a different tactic.
Seeing that we were the only cars on the road as far as the eye could see—most sane people were in bed asleep!—I began to weave like I was falling asleep. I’d drift into the other lane where they would be sure to see me, then make a correction and get back. Three minutes later I was “drifting” again.
Finally my sister-in-law behind me honked. About time! And we took an exit. Not only had I become a good driver, but I had the confidence to pretend to drive recklessly. My DH had created a monster. Oops, not the right ending. But then, if your children are still young, I’m sure you won’t have the same problem.