Both my kids are now in drivers permit territory. (aaah-I KNOW — how did this happen??)
This makes me think of earlier milestones. How do you know when your kid is ready to first eat solids? Sleep in a big kid bed? Start potty training? You read the guidebooks, you tune in to your child, and you watch for signs. You give the transition a try and adjust to and fro.
Unlike these previous examples, learning to drive is a legal thing that is tied to age first and readiness second. In our state (Colorado) a teenager can take a written test through the DMV at age 15 and begin a year of practice driving.
My husband and I find ourselves doing a curious thing in anticipation/preparation:
We have become narrators.
Narrate to Navigate
The narrating began to happen as we approached the permit years, and it took place primarily while driving our teens around.
- Looks like there’s not a big enough break for me to turn left until that batch of cars goes by.
- We need to get over two lanes to turn. I’ll do this gradually and with a blinker to make sure the drivers around me know what to expect.
- Even though I’m going the speed limit, I’m going to slow down because I couldn’t react fast enough if one of those kids leapt out of nowhere.
- Yup, I hear the ding of a text. But I’m not going to look while I’m on the road.
This is our attempt to make our inner processes observable to our teens, to help them understand what we are doing while we are doing it.
And, ultimately, to help them develop and become aware of their own inner processes.
Making the Inner Outer
I got to thinking that such narration could also help them navigate relationships as well as roads.
- This is the second time s/he has bailed on our plans. I wonder if s/he’s going through something?
- Ooh, isn’t that kind of her! I will show my gratitude (must send thank you note) and find ways to give the feeling back.
- Yeah, it hurts when someone forgets your birthday. I feel angry and want to shut down. I want him/her to know I’m important! How could I do that?
- I’m not sure s/he is healthy for me right now. I need to figure out what is in my best interest.
Besides sharing the process itself, I want to share the observation of the process. Through an inner narrator we cultivate awareness, which helps us respond (consciously, with intention) rather than react (unconsciously) when experiencing big emotions.
Do you ever find yourself narrating in an effort to guide? Do you have any tips about doing so?
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.