A dark storm cloud is hanging over our household. A spirit of fear and a sense of doom has gripped our family. I’m afraid even the mightiest forces of the deep can’t change what’s about to happen. I am defenseless against the march of time and the consequences of this reality.
My 16-year-old son wants to get his driver’s license.
He is our oldest, so this ordeal is new to us. I’m not sure I’m ready. Is anyone? It seems like we just carried him home from the hospital for the first time a year or so ago. How can this little boy be eligible and qualified to drive a deadly machine?
Most parents lament the transitions of their children to young adulthood. It’s an emotional season and experts will tell you that pangs of the heart are normal. It’s hard to let go. But we’ve accepted our son’s emerging maturity and wouldn’t want to hold him back for selfish reasons. Our struggle is not with age, but rather ability.
Our driver-in-waiting has Cerebral palsy. This means not only tackling the challenges of learning how to operate a motor vehicle, but also learning how to drive with special hand controls. Beyond the mechanics of it all, learning to drive while simultaneously managing a physical disability presents numerous additional challenges. Are his reflexes adequately developed? In the event of an emergency, is he able to quickly exit the vehicle? How about the burden of maintaining the car – can he change a tire, fill it with gas?
As a parent who loves his son more than anything of this world, the last thing I want to do is discourage him. Nor do I want to overstate the challenge. But driving is a big deal since it can not only put the life of the driver in jeopardy but also his passengers and neighbors on the road.
Reservations and warnings not withstanding, we started the process. We enrolled him in a class at a local training center. We took extra measures, too. We had him evaluated by the on-staff therapist that works with the disabled. We even found an older car that has specially installed hand controls.
The big day arrived and our son’s first real exposure to driving was on a closed course. It was a pretty good start. When we picked him up he told us, “They said I wasn’t the worst driver in the class.” I was afraid to ask him if the “worst driver” was the guy in the ambulance that sped past my car ten minutes earlier.
Subsequent sessions didn’t go as well. It’s looking like he’ll need to repeat some of the course work. Was he disappointed? Of course. But this isn’t the first disappointment my son has had to deal with in his life. Nor will it be his last. He’s bruised, but not broken.
At times, Cerebral palsy has bruised his spirit and frustrated his senses. But disappointment is part of every life. I was reminded of that fact again this past week while reading a story of a young woman named Abbey Curran.
Abbey is the current Miss Iowa. She is physically beautiful and seems, as judged by her interviews, to be very intelligent, too. But Abbey is different. She has cerebral palsy. I saw an interview with her on a talk show. When asked why she started entering pageants, she gave an interesting response. Abbey said it was because a teacher had said she couldn’t because of her disability.
If someone had told me when I was a young boy that I couldn’t do something, it usually devastated and demolished my spirits. But Abbey took it as a challenge and fought to prove her detractors wrong. I’ve never met Abbey, but I’m certain she’s encountered some strong opposition and endured a variety of trials on her road to pursuing her big dream.
The choice to step up rather than simply folding in the face of adversity is among the most fascinating characteristics of successful people. Those who accept these challenges have my admiration. They are my heroes.
As my son struggles to achieve his goals, whether for a driver’s license or a college education, I know he’ll endure setbacks and navigate disappointments. But his success won’t be based upon how many trials he faces, but rather how he faces the trials of the appointed hour.
I pray he emulates the tenacity of Miss Iowa.