Slice of Life: The Illusion of Control

Tuesday already?! And time for Slice of Life. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers. Love you guys for providing a place to live a writerly life. Please read more slices here. And, check out my friend, Dayna’s first post here.


Those of you who have young ones in diapers, do you quake at the thought of potty training? You just don’t want to do it. You’ve been putting off the harsh reality of  coaching your 3-year old to be self aware, to self regulate. You think, how could that little toddler be in control.

But, you know you must eventually “teach” that independence. So you say to yourself, “others have done this. Surely, I can too. After all I’m a teacher and a mass consumer of parenting literature.”  And amazingly you do it. Unscathed. Feeling pret-ty good about yourself.

Fast forward 13 years to the next horrifying parenting task: behind the wheel driving. Your thoughts are strikingly similar to potty training. Other parents do this every day. You can do this.

You get in the passenger seat. EVERYTHING has changed. Your CHILD is in the seat of control, behind the wheel. You try not to think about what this implies. A complete novice powering a motor vehicle. Other vehicles whizzing past you at speeds that seem extremely dangerous. All of what was normal, simple and automatic, takes on a new dimension. Everything is a hazard.   At a very deep level you think this should not be allowed. There should be some other way. Mistakes in judgment are not just embarrassing accidents; it could a matter of  life and death. It is clearly not a safe thing.  The thought of  changing lanes and left turns make you want to move to a place where driving does not have to happen.  New York City? Another era?

But you take a deep breath and look at your girl. She looks nervous. This is good you think.

Ok you say, put your foot on the brake and start the car.

The motor comes to life.

Now let’s just practice lifting our foot off the break.

The car inches forward.

Ok now ease your foot back on to the break.

The car stops.

Deep breath. Ok great! Now let’s put the car in reverse and do the same thing.

You do this back and forth till you feel like she has mastered this baby step. Both of you are less scared. And exhausted.

Now, you say, put the car in park. Great. Now turn it off.

Lesson one done. YES!

Thinking back, you remember the relief you felt when she was potty trained before pre-school started. She will be educated you thought. We made it!  This is where the comparison ends, because now, with this task success means a driver’s license which is scary but really just another step in teaching towards independence and letting go of control, something we never really had. This becomes a step towards teaching her to self regulate, to accept her responsibilities.

Weeks have passed and she has become confident behind the wheel and aware of her surroundings, driving for hours along miles and miles of city streets. The road is long and it continues with you alongside her. This is good, remember this you think, because soon she’ll be on her own.


8 thoughts on “Slice of Life: The Illusion of Control

  1. I love how you wrote about this moment in life…We are at this stage as well.

    Favorite line…”The road is long and it continues with you alongside her. This is good, remember this you think, because soon she’ll be on her own.”

  2. Nice connection between potty training and driving. I remember my discovery that my mom was no the rock of Gibraltar to sit beside me when I tool the wheel. The car was all about my dad. My mom was freaked, just the way you describe it. 🙂

  3. I love the concept of “control” as an “illusion” as we are really never totally in control, are we?

  4. Both times, such a challenge. My daughter just finished (she hopes) the potty training for the 3 year old. I love how you described the moments, & how we are just pretending to be in control. So true, but the fact that you’re there, the underpinning, means a lot, even into adulthood. It did to me, & I think it does to my own grown children. (I still miss my mom…)

  5. How beautifully you have captured this experience. I taught my two boys within the space of a year, such a scary time, and so emotional too, that letting go and watching them move toward independence and adulthood. My boys are both athletes with great depth perception and fast reflexes. I still pray every day for their safety behind the wheel.

  6. This is so true! I did it 3 times. I told my husband that I refused to teach daughter #3, so she did not get her license until she was 17. Of course she had her sisters to take her everywhere. Come to think of it, she was the latest to potty train. At some point you relax a little and realize it will happen in due time.

  7. Having done this three times, I couldn’t help but say “yes” all along… So true about learning what we can control and what we need to let go ( with a little help,, of course!).

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