Saturday morning was a morning of contrasts, comfortable risks taken with planned confidence. Christmas with my side of our family was scheduled to happen at my parents’ a few hours south of Chicagoland, a casual lunch followed by the annual gift exchange to start at 1 PM. We needed to have the car loaded up and on the road by 10 AM (or close to it), my challenge usually getting my wife and children on the road somewhat on time. We’re always late. So instead of sweating it, I decided to just let it happen, met my friend Jon at the mountain bike trails before dawn for two hour BCD ride (Butt Crack of Dawn ride). My stuff was packed for the trip on Friday night. I cruised home by 9:15, showered, and began to help my family load the car.
Nate had stayed up far too late playing video games, as is his habit when he gets a break from school, and he was fighting getting out of bed. Experience has taught me to expect him to do that, so it wasn’t a surprise. I was ready for him.
“Get out of bed, showered, and in the car by 10”, I instructed him as I turned on his bedroom light, “and you can drive us to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”
Boom. Nate was out of bed, outside and in the car in less than 10 minutes. At this point in his 16 year old life, driving a car has taken the pole position. Not only was he ready to drive, but he helped me load the suitcases and presents into the trunk of the car.
I did not prepare the female members of my family that the boy was going to be their chauffeur. They would never go for it if they knew ahead of time. So I let them get in the back seat of the car, then Nate and I took the driver’s and passenger seats.
“Why are you getting in the passenger seat?” a shocked Miriam inquired.
“Nate is driving. It’s part of the deal I made with him to get ready for this trip on time.” Nate smirked at his mother and sister as I delivered the news.
“No, he’s not.”
“Yes, he is.” It was obvious that I meant business.
There are many differences in the way my wife and I approach life. She is late to bed, late to rise when she has the choice. I am early to bed, early to rise. She is back row. I am front row. She is painfully shy. I know few strangers. She is a fretter and worrier, full of anxiety. I choose to worry less, let things happen as they will.
So it is when it comes to our son driving, I am very easy going, deliver suggestions when the opportunity is there, let the boy relax and drive otherwise. That is not what Miriam does. She lets her fear be known, hounds the boy and hovers.
When we left the driveway Saturday morning, the rain began to fall and not just from the sky. My wife sat in the back seat with anxious tears. Nate laughed and sneered at her, my advice immediately was to leave his mother alone if he wanted to continue to drive. I tried not to laugh, tried not to let her anxiety wash over me, willed myself to stay calm.
I enjoyed the ride, the break that I had planned. The boy drove quite well, eventually gave up the wheel to me about 90 minutes into our trip.
In order to survive in a relationship, I have had to learn to deal with the differences and live with them. In order to do that, it’s necessary to accept them. Some people can’t ever do that, no matter how hard they try, and the relationship fails. Tolerance is a choice, especially if it becomes obvious that you can’t or shouldn’t expect the other person to change.
I expect that I will be working on that for the rest of my life.