“Not this way, GiGi! Go that way!”
My nearly three year old foster son continued to yell from his carseat in the back of my minivan. “You not listenin’ to me, GiGi. Not go this way. Go that way!” He pointed his chubby finger in the opposite direction.
“Sweetie, I know this isn’t the way back home, but this is the way I have to go right now. I’m taking Nate to his class and in order to get there we have to drive this direction.” I tried to break the news to him gently, but I braced myself for the toddler tantrum I knew was about to ensue.
“No!” he screamed. “I not wanna go this way. I wanna go that way!” He began kicking his feet for added emphasis.
Five minutes later, the toddler rampage was still in full force with absolutely no sign of an end to the kicking and screaming. “Turn awound! Turn awound!” he yelled. “I told you not go this way!”
Silently, I continued to drive on in the direction of Nathan’s class, trying hard to ignore all the commotion going on in the back of my minivan. Instead, I was pondering the possible causes for this extreme tantrum. Normally my foster son loved car rides. So what was the problem today?
Perhaps he was hungry? No. I fed him a snack just before we left the house.
Was he sleepy? Surely not. He took a two-hour nap after lunch.
Maybe he was getting sick?
But before I had time to consider this possibility, the screaming toddler stopped to take a breath. In that brief moment, my son Nathan spoke up. “Hey, K* … Are you crying because you want to drive the car?”
The crying stopped almost instantly, replaced by small hiccupy breaths and little snuffles. K gazed at Nathan as if he wasn’t quite sure what to say.
Well, did you know you have to have a driver’s license if you want to drive a car?” Nathan had successfully captured his foster brother’s complete attention, bringing the tantrum to a standstill, at least for the moment.
“It’s a rule,” Nathan continued. “And if you don’t follow the rule, a policeman might stop you and take you to jail. Do you have a driver’s license?”
K continued to stare at Nate, still not answering but obviously interested in what his older brother was saying.
“You have to be sixteen years old to get a driver’s license. Are you sixteen?”
“I two.” K held up two fat fingers.
“Yeah. You’re two. I’m thirteen. Neither of us is old enough to have a driver’s license. Do you know how old Gigi is?”
K beamed as he answered, “GiGi WAS forty-two. Her had a birfday. Now GiGi forty-tree.”
(This line of questioning was actually a brilliant play on Nate’s part. One of our foster son’s favorite games to play is answer questions about the people in our house … age, eye color, gender, and so forth. And he usually wins! It’s hard to trip this kid up!)
“That’s right. GiGi is forty-three. She is old enough to have a driver’s license. Someday you and I will be big and we can have a driver’s license, too. Then we can drive whichever way we want to go. But today, GiGi is driving and she gets to decide which road to take. And that’s okay because she always knows how to go back home. We just have to let her do the driving while we sit back and enjoy the ride. Ok, buddy?”
“Ok, Nate,” he said.
And just like that, the toddler fit was over.
If everything comes your way, you are driving in the wrong lane. ~Author Unknown
Earlier this week, my oldest son got his driving permit.
As we walked out of the DMV and across the parking lot to our car, Joel held out his hand.
At first, I wasn’t sure what he was wanting. I was fairly positive he wasn’t asking to hold my hand. He hasn’t done that in years. For a second I thought maybe he was attempting to give me a high five. But I quickly realized that’s not quite his style either.
Then, in what has perhaps been the most surreal moment in all of my years of parenting, it dawned on me. My son wants the keys to the car.
For a second, I seriously considered telling him no. After all, I cherish my life and I wasn’t sure I was ready to risk it all on a ride with a brand-new driver, even if the driver was my son.
Quickly though, I realized saying no in this situation wasn’t a good option. All I could do was suck it up, say a prayer, and place the keys in his outstretched hand.
Twenty-five minutes later, we pulled in our drive, and for the first time since he had started the ignition nearly half an hour earlier, I was able to take a deep breath. Joel had driven me home, and I had lived. He hadn’t killed me, or anyone else for that matter. The car was still intact. There was much to be thankful for.
In fact, as I reflected on our drive home, I more realized he had done a spectacular job of driving. By the time I walked through the door and laid my purse on the kitchen counter, I was practically glowing with pride.
“Maybe,” I thought, “I could get used to this. It might be nice to be chauffeured around town.“
Two minutes later, I felt a wave of nausea. Joel is the first of my five teens to start driving. “Oh, no,” I groaned, putting my head in my hands. “This is only the beginning! Pretty soon, all the kids will be getting permits followed by a real driver’s license. It will be just one after the other after the other. I might not ever drive again for the next half dozen years!“
And just like that, I’m no longer in control of my own car!
Last night, I lay in bed thinking about how hard it was to let Joel drive me home.
He did great. He wasn’t speeding or driving too slow. He stayed in his lane, never came close to hitting anything, and obeyed all the traffic rules. I had absolutely no reason to feel scared.
And yet, I kept wanting to grab hold of the wheel. At times the urge was so strong that I had to actually sit on my hands!
Well, I’ll tell you. Joel was now in the driver’s seat; I was just a passenger. And quite frankly, I didn’t like finding myself not being the one in control.
And if you stop to think about it, that’s a pretty silly reason, especially since the goal of parenting is to take the infant you are given and help that child grow into an adult who is completely capable of being in control of his or her own life.
Whether I like it or not, I’ve been preparing for this day all of my son’s life, starting with letting the two-year old version of my boy choose between wearing the blue shirt or the red shirt, all the way until Thursday afternoon when I relinquished the car keys in his hands. The reality of just how close this boy was to manhood and how very little control I had left in his life was somewhat overwhelming.
The more I pondered these sobering thoughts, the more I realized idea of being control was the likely cause of little K’s mysterious tantrum as well. He loves to choose for himself … which song to sing, which book to read, which snack to eat. I suppose in his toddler mind if he could pick between two shirts to wear on Wednesday morning, why couldn’t he choose which direction to travel on Wednesday afternoon?
And then, I felt a tugging in my heart, the familiar urging of the Holy Spirit for me to take these thoughts a little deeper. There was more to this than just toddler boys who want to be in control of the car and teen boys who have actually grown big enough to take control of the car. There was also me and my own desires to be in control left to consider.
But am I in charge? Really?
No, it’s just an illusion that I’m in control of my life, too. Yet, I buy that lie hook, line and sinker nearly every day, believing this is my life and somehow I’m completely in charge of the way things go.
But deep down in the very pit of my being, I know that I’m not in control of my life … not anymore than I am in control of the car when my teenaged son is driving.
So, if I’m not in control, then who is? And this is an answer we all know as well, whether or not we want to admit it.
God. All throughout the Bible, we are told God, who created everything from nothing, is in charge. He gives us life (Job 12:10), works all things together for our good (Jeremiah 29:11), and promises to never leave us (Matthew 28:20).
And just in case we don’t get it, there is this verse to consider:
Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control. ~ Hebrews 2:8
There is nothing, not one thing, that is outside of His control.
And for me, that means when toddlers throw fits or teenagers grow old enough to drive, when the dog dies or the tile on the bathroom wall starts to crumble and fall to the floor, when someone you love hurts your feelings or the doctor says he can’t cure you, when there’s no money in the bank to pay the bills or you find yourself lost as a goose and you can’t figure out which road to take to get back home …
In other words, in every situation of my life, all I need to do is just take a deep breath.
And then hand the keys back to God.
He’s already got the wheel!
The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” ~ Isaiah 14:24
*K is our foster son. Legally I cannot share his name or image here, though I’d love to show you his adorable brown eyes and mischievous grin.