“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.” Jack Kerouac
17 year old teenage boys long for the open road. I did. When I was 17, I roamed the streets of Mankato in a 1969 Camaro packed with my friends. I loved to be behind the wheel.
Louie is 17 and not able to drive because of this stupid eye disease. I guess we’ve always known he would give it a try. I would if I were in his shoes. A couple of years ago, I told my friend Toby that he needs to get a safe car because I knew Louie’s first experience behind the wheel would be with Toby’s daughter - his friend Lily by his side. I knew this was coming. The other day, Toby called me and said “it happened, Louie went for a drive with Lily at St. Kates.” No shock, too late to be nervous – just a feeling of relief that he drove with his oldest friend and the kids and the car are fine.
I know that taking a risk is critical to growth. But as a dad, risk get’s compounded when you are the parent of teenagers – and maybe even a little more when you have a teenager dealing with blindness. As a dad, I’m open to a certain level of risk. We’ve been through skiing, skateboarding, biking and power tools – but driving?
Parental responsibility puts us in the uneasy role of encouraging our kids to become self-sufficient while trying to help them avoid disaster. My daily challenge is to find the right balance between risk and responsible parenting. For me, it’s the hardest part of being a dad. Physical complications like blindness can quickly tip the balance. I hope for success and try to accept failure. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t. My impression of ‘balance’ is different than Louie’s.
I don’t have the answers. I do know that I love my family, I trust my kids and there is power in lifelong friendships.
Oh, Louie has still not admitted that it happened. It must not have been at St. Kates – when asked, all he says is “I did not drive at St. Kates.”