My 16-year-old son, who has always needed a nudge in the right direction, has zero desire to get his driver’s license. It’s not that he doesn’t want it, he’s actively self-sabotaging his chances of getting one.
His driver’s ed instructor said that, while she “wasn’t scared to get in the car with him anymore,” he continued to make “odd choices” behind the wheel. She assured me that he was in no way a danger, but that he would do things like pull over and get out a piece of gum. Or approach a stop sign, put the car in park, rev the engine, and laugh.
And this behavior doesn’t just happen while driving. All his shoes seem to have disappeared, except his flip-flops (not the best footwear for a teen who is not 100% sure what side the brake is on). And, when it is time to practice, he suspiciously falls into his signature “possum” sleep, a state he can magically produce whenever he needs to escape a mandated task. At this rate, I think, he will never get that driver’s license.
He is driving under duress, of course–but, then again, he just kinda functions that way. He is the kind of kid who sees things like throwing his candy wrappers in the garbage (in lieu of stuffing them in the couch cushions) a ridiculous inconvenience, and he’s certainly not going to walk the dog unless I threaten to take his phone.
Years of under-duress-ness, though, have yielded a kid who actually wanted to join the tennis team this year, a kid who made a close posse of friends after being coerced into theater camp. Compulsory percussion lessons earned him a place in the marching band–and to a self-assuredness that he certainly didn’t have before performing a complex, choreographed routine in front of a crowd of football fans.
So, it just seemed a no-brainer that we continue the tradition and require him to get his driver’s license. He doesn’t want to. But, again, why would this fact deter us, since the catalog of things he has ever wanted to do willingly is limited.
Of course, I’ve asked him why he’s acting this way, but he’s always been pretty reticent, so asking him point-blank yields only a shrug. Eschewing the teenage privilege of driving seems antithetical to everything a 16-year-old craves. Or typically craves.
Then again, does it really matter why he doesn’t want his driver’s license? I think it’s time for me to accept the fact that, even if getting a driver’s license is a huge milestone in other 16-year-old lives, it is not a milestone my kid is interested in hitting.
So I’ve decided that until he’s ready to talk to me, I’ll just keep listening for clues, or pretty soon he’ll be sidling away from me.