Our daughter is 13. In many, many ways, she is out in front of me. She is wise, emotionally strong, lives in the present, and has a huge amount of empathy. Learning from her is a complete joy for me.
I’ve wanted to tape our car conversations for some time. I never would without her permission, but I often talk to my friends about the discussions we have on the way to school. We touch on a broad range of topics from the benign to the weighty. I wonder sometimes what she must be thinking when she jumps out of the car at drop off, and heads into class. If I know her like I think, she has filed it away, and is in the moment with her friends. She can go from serious to laughing quicker than I ever thought possible. But that car time each morning is sacred to me. It has become a ritual for us that starts when the thud of the closing doors reaches our ears.
It starts the same each day. She is not a morning person so she gets up as late as possible which means she eats a bagel in the car on the way to school. We settle our breakfasts and drinks, and pull out. I don’t start out our conversations with any grand entrance or formal start. They evolve. Yesterday morning I told her about a meeting I had with our Corporate Security team that started a conversation between us about ethics and choices. The conversation goes where her questions take us, and we meander our way through our thoughts for the 20 minute car ride.
As we pull up to the turn for her school, she gathers her stuff, and begins to mentally transition. I almost always ask her if she has this or that, and give a quick reminder about the evening ahead. We say our I love yous, and the thud of the door signals the end. I watch her walk off toward her group of friends, a small smile forms, and I am left with my own thoughts as I drive off.
In these moments, I am not the parent imparting wisdom to my child; we are creating a space for both of us to learn and grow. In so many ways, I think she is really taking the lead, and I am a willing participant.
She empowers me to be better and to do better, and I can only hope I offer her the same.