My third son, Aiden, just got his L. More than any of my other boys, he has been looking forward to driving and has been talking about this day for as long as I can remember. He always loves adventures, risk taking, trying new things, and has the confidence to believe that whatever he tries he will be good at. When you are brimming with that much confidence it tends to leave parents with a mix of happy assurance and healthy apprehension.

Hold Hands? No Way!

I couldn’t be more opposite than Aiden. I was hesitant about everything new when I was young. Most things I did required a gentle but firm parental hand on my back, pushing me out of the nest.

Raising five boys has been vastly different than my experiences as a little girl. They are nothing like me, but still, my oldest sons did require a certain amount of firm and gentle “shoving” out of the nest. What I wasn’t prepared for with Aiden was that I would need a firm hand, but it would be used in a completely different way, wildly searching for a pair of reigns on this kid in order to slow him down and hold him back. What I lack in confidence, my son makes up for and then some…and then some more.

This began from the moment Aiden could have an opinion. He was wriggling his little fingers out of mine from the moment he was old enough to walk on his own. Holding hands only held him back. He never worried about losing me or getting lost. I tested it out one day after countless tantrums about holding my hand. I watched him from around a corner to see what he’d do when he noticed I was missing. If I was expecting/secretly hoping for tears and panic, I was sorely disappointed. He glanced around nonchalantly and carried on with what he was doing. Eventually he made the decision to start looking, but even then, he wasn’t looking in earnest. He had all the confidence in the world that he was fine; eventually we’d be reunited and that there was nothing to worry about.

Not A Care In The World

His confidence with driving began when he was barely able to walk. Aiden was toddling around in the backyard. Soother firmly planted in his mouth, he worked himself onto the seat of his brother’s toy ride-on tractor and somehow managed to accidentally step on the “gas” pedal. In complete oblivion of the danger that awaited him and with the wheels pointed straight down the driveway, off he “drove” with no ability to steer and was headed onto our busy road. Auntie Jen showed up unexpectedly at that exact moment to stop traffic by positioning her car across the road and scooped Aiden up before he disappeared into the deep ditch or was hit by a passing car. Aiden didn’t have a clue or a care in the world as his mom and Aunt stood there crying and attempting to get their racing hearts back to a normal rhythm.

Aiden grew at an alarming pace, hitting 6 feet by grade 8 and his confidence seemed to grow at the same speed. He was clamouring to drive the lawn tractor or any vehicle that had a gas pedal and didn’t feel the obligatory Mom/Dad safety talks were necessary. And in truth he was pretty good, minus the time he drove the bucket of the tractor into the barn wall, wedging it firmly there. Even then, I watched him from the kitchen window, saw him sit there for a minute, thinking it through, get off and examine his options, and then carefully lower the bucket as he put it in reverse. He “smoothed” the gouged wood back into place and hopped back on to continue his work. He confessed later but in no way did it dampened his enthusiasm for driving or diminished his confidence. Chalk it up to a life lesson and move on.

Can I Drive Home?

That’s why I was prepared for Monday. My older boys hadn’t studied for their L and failed at first, but I knew without a doubt that wouldn’t be the case with Aiden. He had been studying and taking practice tests for months. He had no intention of following in his brothers’ footsteps. And I also knew without a doubt, the request that would follow, “Can I drive home?” Let Dad take him on his maiden voyage. But the best laid plans…right?

Steve had an appointment and sure enough Mom was driving Aiden home. My stoic son walked out of the motor vehicle branch; no jumping up and down with excitement or flashing of that red letter “L.” When you know you’ll pass, you don’t waste time on excitement, you get straight down to business. “Can I drive home?” Oh sheesh. I tried to reason that we were late and since we take the highway home to Chilliwack, I should drive. That logic made no sense to him as he was completely comfortable hitting the highway on his first go. Oh man.But you’ve never driven on the road before, so it’s normal to start small, not in the middle of the city,” I reasoned. That logic made no sense either as he revealed stories that made my hair stand on end, of a big brother who had taken it upon himself to give Aiden “lessons” in the country when Aiden was only 14. Lord, help me! We finally compromised. I drove most of the way, including the highway part, and he drove the back roads for the last 8 km.

Sometimes all that confidence makes me want to throttle him. It can be infuriating as I explain and give reasons ‘til I’m blue in the face, only to see that his mind is made up and he “knows” what he knows. But I’ve discovered that confidence plays a large role in success too. When you believe you can do it, within reason, many times you really can. As Aiden and I switched seats on the side of that country road, I saw someone confidently put on his seatbelt, check his mirrors, adjust his seat way back and then…look at his mom and wait for my instructions. His confidence wasn’t recklessness. He was eager to learn and very accepting of my directions and advice. And he did amazingly well. A little fast on the corners perhaps but teachable, careful, and confident. I can appreciate that kind of confidence and can even hope a little of it rubs off on me.