Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Praise of Waiting

I like people to think that I am a pretty patient person, but really I am not. Over the years I have learned to wait and appear externally patient, but inwardly I roil at inefficient, slow-paced processes. I suppose it is for that reason that often my task as a parent is a frustrating one. It's been twelve years now, and I am still getting accustomed to the parenting journey, but I still have moments of irritation along the way.

There are moments, however, when patient (as much as I am able to conjure the attitude) waiting results in something praiseworthy. I had the opportunity to experience that a few minutes ago. First a bit of context. In our family's functioning Claudia and I have pretty clear responsibilities. If it has to do with grocery shopping, food preparation and menu planning it's my responsibility. If it has to do with school conferences, IEP meetings and the like, it's Claudia's job. Occasionally we shift specific responsibilities when scheduling conflicts occur, but it helps both of us to know what is within our realm.

When it comes to the driver's permit, behind-the-wheel hours and eventual driver's test, that's my job. I first accompanied one of our foster kids years ago to his driver's permit process, logging hundreds of hours behind the wheel with him. I hope that today, even though he is nearly thirty years old he remembers that gift in his life. I went with our oldest son the two times it took him to pass his permit test (he would not want you to know it took two times, so don't tell him I said that) and the one time to pass his driving test for his license. I did the same for our second oldest son, whose pattern was exactly the same (2 tries for permit, 1 try for the license). With our son Jimmy, who struggles with developmental delays, I have accompanied him some of the five or six tries toward a permit (still unsuccessful).

And today I accompanied our daughter Salinda as she passed her permit test on the first try! (She will love rubbing that in the face of her oldest brother who is obnoxious self-confidence personified). As we left the driver's examination station I handed her the keys and said, "Drive me home."

She looked at me for a moment, assessing my level of sincerity. "Really?"

"Of course. You've just passed your permit test, and now it's time to get you on the road, legally."

I had to add the last word because it was only a year ago that our most difficult year in history with her began. She illegally took our car one night in September of 2007, which resulted in a series of very difficult situations. The car was stolen twice in that night, in two separate counties, ultimately taken by our son Mike (then 18) who was erroneously given custody of the car by a beguiled officer, but that's a story I don't want to relive right now. Ironically, the car that was stolen a year ago was just diagnosed with permanent engine damage (due, I am sure, to what happened to it while it was being driven illegally all around the area, though Salinda had nothing to do with that part).

Anyway, a year ago at this time Salinda was living in a residential treatment center, under juvenile justice supervision and challenging authority at every corner. The past fourteen months have been very difficult ones for her and for us. The past two months or so, however, have shown progress on her part.

She successfully completed her confirmation process a month ago and professed her Christian faith. She was released from all of her juvenile justice requirements and oversight within the past six weeks. And now she has legally succeeded in completing driver's education and the permit test. And today I was able to be chauffeured home for the first time she has legally driven our vehicle.

And, in case you're wondering, I did have to point out to her the irony of the situation, that technically this is not her first time to drive a vehicle of ours, although it is the first time she has done so legally. I did in a light-hearted way, though, and not with a sense of vindication or mean-spiritedness. She smiled, understanding very well what I meant.

Over the past year, especially when her attitude has reared its ugly head, I have murmured and gesticulated and threatened behind closed doors to my wife that Salinda would never be driving one of our cars again. I postulated that she might never get her license while living in our house because I wouldn't pay for the class, and I wouldn't help her learn to drive. I griped and moaned, and punished anyone who would listen long enough to me about her outrageous behavior.

But today redemption has come near us. As we drove home together, she at the wheel, I in the passenger's seat, I am proud and relieved. I am proud that she has taken steps to put her life back together, and I am relieved that God has given me the grace to let go of my resentment and hostility.

Sometimes that's what waiting, even impatiently, can accomplish.


Torina said...

Wow. Those are all huge accomplishments for Salinda! A lot can change in a year or two...

Hopewell said...

What a great job! It's nice to share a "good parenting" moment with you. I certainly understand the "Mike" stories--glad to hear something happy, too.