Last week my daughter took her driver's test. She was so nervous about it. My daughter is the kind of kid who rarely stresses about school. She’s calm as a cucumber getting shots, in the dentist's chair, even getting her nose pierced, she didn’t flinch.
But with this driving test, she was a mess. She researched which driving school in our city had the highest rate of passing. On the day of the test, she begged me to please pay for another test if she failed. In the end, the highest passing school didn’t have any spots available so we went somewhere else, amping up my daughter’s belief that she would not pass the test.
I dropped my daughter off to do the paperwork and take her test and went for a walk. I got back before she and the teacher returned so I sat on some steps across from the driving school. Shortly after I saw her pull up (a little far from the curb). She and the driving teacher got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk. I could see them from afar. “Oh shit,” I thought, “that teacher is reading her the riot act. I hope she didn’t fail.”
I watched my daughter nod her head earnestly as the teacher pointed out things on her clipboard. Then Lucia spotted me and walked calmly over. “I passed,” she said, then proudly exclaimed, “95!” I wasn’t surprised. She had been ready. She was prepared. She’s a good driver.
That afternoon as my daughter sat in the driver’s seat getting ready to drive us to the grocery store, she confidently rested her right arm behind the headrest of my seat and backed down our driveway. “You seem so self-assured driving right now,” I said to her.
“I am!,” she exclaimed, “I was just thinking how much more confident I am now that someone else told me I can drive.” We talked a little bit about that, how it’s so strange that someone else’s opinion can be so much more important than our own.
Nothing had changed with my daughter’s driving skills between the time she took the test and that moment. The only shift had been in her recognition of her capacity. Before being sanctioned by an outside party (someone she’s never met and doesn’t know), she felt tentative and unsure of her driving abilities.
Just the simple blessing from someone in authority changed how she saw herself in the world. Getting a shot or a filling doesn’t require any performance. In those acts, you are a passive recipient of the process. But performing to be evaluated and scored is a whole other level. I wonder what the fallout would have been if my daughter hadn’t passed her driver’s test. Would she have internalized that message and become discouraged and deflated?
It’s wonderful to witness my daughter’s newfound confidence. She feels accomplished and deserving of this right to drive a car. I hope that as she moves through her life she’ll think about this experience and remember that, even before someone told her she could drive a car, she could do it.