Dear Readers,

We were four mothers huddled together that early Thursday morning. We all scheduled our children’s roadside driving tests for the first appointments of the day and had arrived in close proximity of one another. As the clouds gave way to a light drizzle, we shifted into a glass-covered outdoor shelter, but the winds still penetrated, blowing straight through our bulky coats.

One mother was dressed in professional clothing and was undoubtedly rushing off to work as soon as her child’s 8 a.m. appointment concluded. Another could barely speak English; it was clear that this wasn’t her or her daughter’s first language.

We made some small talk. First, about the changing weather—how just yesterday we experienced almost summer-like weather (“We had highs even higher than Florida,” one Mom commented). Today, it felt more like February, with winter’s grip still strong.

Clustering in the cold, we each waited and wondered if our children would pass their driving tests. We closely examined their instructors, wondering how strict they would be. With our eyes, we followed our children driving around the circular path, mentally willing them to remember to stop a full stop, and watching if they were struggling with their parallel parking or bumping any of the orange cones set up along the way.

No doubt, we had each tried to prepare our children for this moment. They had studied and succeeded in passing their written tests, acing the detailed questions. They had painstakingly practiced with driving instructors and spent many hours on the road with family members, who carefully watched and scrutinized their driving patterns.

Though each of us moms came from different backgrounds, we all shared a parent’s concern—wanting our children to succeed in this test, but more than that, hoping that we had prepared our children to safely navigate their vehicles. We realized, too, that the ultimate test would come when our children would drive on their own, making turns and decisions without our help.

Our children returned, one by one, several moments later. Some were ecstatic to have passed their tests, and some were downcast with instructions on what they needed to work on for next time.

Watching the procedure—the passes and the failures—I realized that this experience taught us some important principles about safely navigating through life’s roads and circumstances:

  1. Even if theoretically you know the right answers on a written test, that doesn’t automatically translate into practice, in choosing the right action.
  2. Often, we are put are in a situation where we have to make decisive, split-second decisions (sometimes, even pertaining to life and death). To make the right choice, our instincts have to be honed to react correctly.
  3. Practice, practice and more practice, especially when not under the pressure of a test, trains our instincts.
  4. Sometimes, you need to fail in order to try harder and learn more. That often makes you a safer and better navigator of life’s passages.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW