My visit to the American Automobile Association (AAA) office to renew our membership on the eve of helping my college-graduate daughter move out of state brought a lot of information—about the loquacious employee’s life and family. But the memorable core was about her school-challenged son’s effortless passing of his driver’s license examination.
She “bonded” with me about a parent being sad when an adult child moves from within the parent’s grasp, as her own father lamented her move 18 miles away when she remarried. (My daughter was about to move 900 miles away, but still!) She told me all about her two children and how academically brilliant is the little one and how much difficulty her teenage son has in school, diagnosed with ADD. He gets C’s and D’s, she told me.
But then, with amazement and a little dismay, she told me what happened when he went to take his driver’s test without much notice or preparation. She hoped—like many parents—that he would fail and that she could postpone the moment of his entering the frightening phase of new driving. Given his history with tests, it was reasonable to expect poor results. She warned him that he needed to study, and review, and be over-prepared for the written test, but was comforted by the idea that outsiders would judge the test and force him to retake it when he failed, once again proving the merit of her mother’s wisdom and advice.
The son looked over the material, went, and passed the first time!
The mother noted the huge difference between his capacity and success in learning something that he really wanted to accomplish and his ordinary school failure.
She did not use the educational psychology terminology of “motivation” or “authentic assessment” but was clear in her own mind: there was nothing in school that mattered to this boy that could compare at all to the lure of driving.
What is especially sad is that his 12 years of school failure will come to define him as a person. Just as his mother told us what kind of boy he was (“He gets C’s and D’s.”), it will take many years of adult accomplishment to convince him that he can be successful. Maybe this is a first step.
I am happy for him that he gets some freedom. I worry with his mother about teenage driving. I share his mother’s father’s sadness at a daughter moving beyond a hug’s reach.
And I am grateful for a story, even though my visit to AAA was a lot more informative than I’d bargained for when I popped in to do some paperwork.