Driving with the Brakes On

by admin

Driving with the Brakes On

I have always had a hard time letting people show me how to do things.

And as a result, I end up doing things the hard way.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to grow tomatoes for the first time. I bought all the plants and the soil and the pots and eagerly set to work on our back porch, visions of jars and jars of homemade tomato sauce dancing in my head.

And Rob, a green thumb, from a long line of green thumbs, was thrilled to see me take an interest in one of his hobbies and was anxious to help.

Except I wouldn’t let him.

“You have to plant them really far—”

“Let me do it.”

“Ya, but if you don’t—”

“Let me do it!”

“But I’ve done it before and—”


So I planted the plants too close together and most of them died. When I tried to stake up some of the survivors, Rob tried again.

“You just have to—”

So Rob finally gave up and I tied the surviving plants way too tight when I staked them up. Every single plant died a gruesome death and we ate canned tomato sauce all winter.

I had no one to blame but myself and it was not an enjoyable learning experience.

I need to work on listening to people; I know that. Because even though stubbornness, stupid stubbornness, is part of who I am, it’s a part of me that has made my life more difficult than it needs to be.

And even worse than that, I am queasy sometimes to think that my son may be destined to go down the same hard roads I have always insisted upon treading.

Graham got a tricycle for Christmas and over the last few weeks I’ve been out with him several times, trying to help him learn to ride it.


Except he doesn’t want my help.

Time and time again he refuses to put his feet on the pedals and insists instead on pushing his feet along the ground to propel him and the tricycle forward. He frequently bumps his shins and gets his feet caught under the back wheels. As soon as he gets some momentum his feet drag on the ground, slow him down and threaten to upset him entirely.

It’s painful to watch.

“Graham sweetie, look, just put your feet on the pedals and—”


“But if you use your feet to push the pedals like this you can—”


“Just let mama push you and then you put your feet up and—”


Which I think is another way of saying “MOTHER YOU ARE NOT RESPECTING THE WAY I LEARN.”

And so I step back and let him do it himself. Because I must.

But damn it’s difficult to watch him tire himself out dragging that blasted tricycle around, getting up just a little bit of speed but then stumbling over his feet and tumbling in frustration just as the breeze starts to blow in his face.

Yup, that’s my boy.

Doing it his way, even if it is the hard way.

Just like his mama.