Riding in the Passenger Seat

My daughter needs just 10 nighttime hours of supervised driving to get her driver’s license.  So we planned an evening trip from Richmond to Northern Virginia to visit family this past Friday.  All day Friday I was at a board retreat, sharing with the board my desire to move out of operations and into more of an oversight or director role.  There was much discussion over what that would look like and some honest concern over whether I would be able to step aside and let the staff, Joe Torrence and Susan Carminucci, take the lead.

As I climbed into the car  and allowed my daughter to assume the driver’s seat, I realized that this is exactly the season I am in with Embrace Richmond.  I have tremendous confidence that my daughter will one day be a superb driver but if I simply gave her the keys and instructed her to take the car to Northern Virginia without me there beside her; I would not only endanger my daughter, but could cause harm to others.  Likewise, I have tremendous confidence in Joe and Susan’s abilities to lead Embrace Richmond, but for a season, I need to be in the passenger seat helping them avoid the pot holes and learning the roadways.

Letting go is never easy.  My first debate with my daughter was over who got to choose the music.  I had been in a board meeting for six hours and really wanted something smoothing and relaxing and feared what my daughter would select but I conceded to her request.  She selected “The Shins” a group I had never heard of.  To my surprise, I actually liked The Shins.  Likewise, Joe and Susan will have their own style and will rhythm and I am looking forward to learning a few new tunes.

The second challenge we faced was how to get to Northern Virginia.  An experienced driver would of course take I95; but the thought of my daughter who had never driven on a major freeway and never driven long distances at night driving on I95 terrified the both of us.  Thankfully, I sought wise counsel and learned that Route 1 was a good alternative.  It would take longer to get to our destination but it would afford me much needed instructional time with Caitlin.  Most of Caitlin’s driving experience had been on country roads and suburban roadways.  Route 1, while new to both of us, required the same skills she had already mastered.  We were building on what Caitlin already knew, simply adding new territory and a new twist…darkness.

Joe has proven his abilities in a number of areas; he is great at motivating people and skilled at executing programs that help fulfill the overall vision and mission of Embrace.  Susan has a strong background in business and finance and excellent administrative skills.  However, this new role is going to require both Joe and Susan to venture into new territory.  For Joe the challenge will be managing a large number of AmeriCorps members and for Susan the challenge will be insuring compliance with the complex requirements of our AmeriCorps grant.  Both have had prior experience that we will build on but both will have a steep learning curve in the next few months so we are going to take it slow.

As we drove along Route 1, my daughter got excited as she saw new towns and interesting buildings.  At our Board Retreat, our consultants shared with us some wonderful new management techniques and I watched as Joe became excited about his ability to venture into this role of manager.  Likewise, Susan brought joy to me as she got excited about a process flowchart that I had done for one of our programs…she actually likes flowcharts!   Like my daughter, Joe and Susan, recognize that they will have to learn new skills but their passion for the work of Embrace is the motivation they need to do the hard work of refining their skill sets to meet these new challenges.

Finding Route 1 proved to be a bit more difficult than expected.  We missed our exit and had to take back roads to get back on course.  Thankfully I knew that part of town and was able to direct Caitlin when we got off course, at least during that part of the Journey.  When we got closer to our destination, I no longer knew the way and when we again got lost, we had to pull over and consult a map together.  I am thankful to have this season to share with Joe and Susan the back roads that I have learned over the years but I also realize that where we are going is new to all of us and we will have to consult the map together as we enter new territory.

The most difficult part of our trip occurred when Route 1 ended and we had no choice but to get on I95 for 6.8 miles until we could turn off on Hwy 17 toward my sister’s house.  I knew Caitlin was not ready for the fast pace of I95 at night and we had to change seats for a short distance.

At first she thought she could handle I95, but once she saw the massive number of cars and break lights she said “Mom, I am really glad you are driving.”  One thing I know about Joe and Susan is that they are humble enough and wise enough to know that there are some roadways that are beyond their current skill level.  True maturity is recognizing your limitations and relinquishing control or seeking wise council when you know you are outside your area of expertise.  A year from now, my daughter will be able to drive on I95 with no fears, but for right now, an experience like that could make her fearful of highway driving.  Likewise, before I know it, Joe and Susan will not need me in the car at all but I am thankful for the wisdom they have to know that for a season they need a companion that in difficult times will help them steer.

I was dreading my trip to Northern Virginia but we arrived safely and I actually found there were moments that I enjoyed the passenger seat more than the driver’s seat; I got to look out across the lake and marvel at the beauty, I was able to turn around and watch the sunset, I was able to enjoy the passing scenery and point out interesting new sights to Caitlin but most of all I got the joy of watching my daughter gain confidence in her own ability to drive.  By the end of the trip she asked, “I did pretty good didn’t I?” and I was able to honestly say “You did a great job!”

I am looking forward to my new role of driving coach with Joe and Susan and I promise not to be a backseat driver!

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3 Comments

Filed under Personal Reflection

3 responses to “Riding in the Passenger Seat

  1. Yvonne McCarroll

    Wendy I really enjoyed your analogy on letting go. I have really really bad issues is just this area. Jim lectures me all the time about letting our grown sons make their own decisions and mistakes, without my loud imput. In the long run, it’s really the best thing for all of us. You’ll be so proud when they all do a great job, and they will be so proud of themselves when they realize they can soar by themselves. The price of protection can eliminate self esteem and confindence, but no one ever told me that growing up, and of course I had to learn the hard way. You are light years ahead of me, and for that I am happy, not to mention proud that you have the guts to take the chance.

    God Bless You,

    Aunt Bonnie

  2. wmccaig

    Thanks Aunt Bonnie,

    Your sister took the opposite approach. As a kid I always wanted a mom who was really active in my life but I now realize what a blessing it was to learn to do things on my own. I think like with everything the key is finding the balance between letting go and still supporting. I am still trying to find that balance.

  3. Pingback: Join the Conversation – March « Embrace Richmond Weblog

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