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Dear Emuna: Teenage Driver

September 27, 2011 | by Emuna Braverman

Help! My 16-year-old daughter wants to get her driver's license! Am I being too overprotective?

Dear Emuna,

My daughter just turned 16 and she really wants to get her driver’s license. She is constantly whining about it and complains that we are overprotective. She says that “all the other parents let.” Should be just give in? Is she right?

- Parents of Teenagers

Dear POT,

I think there are at least two separate issues here. One is the oft-repeated expression, “All the other parents let.” If I had a dollar for every time an adolescent said that…It is almost never true and is almost always a tool for manipulation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be flexible. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to reasonable arguments. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate the seriousness of the situation (I have changed my mind and given in to many a sleepover request when it turns out that the other parents do in fact “let”.)

The specific issue at stake is driving. I’ve always been in favor of raising the driving age until I heard some recent study results. Apparently in states where the legal driving age is now 18 instead of 16, there are few accidents among 16-year-olds – for obvious reasons. But guess what has increased? That’s right, the number of accidents in the 18-year-old category. There is no question that driving is risky – and traumatic for the parents. But it is a risk the world accepts. It is part of growing up. It is part of creating adults from children.

I think we cripple our kids when we hold them back from the reasonable experiences of their peers due to our anxiety. Each step of our children’s independence is difficult for us. It means they are growing up – and away from us. Almost nothing marks that more dramatically than getting a driver’s license and the “freedom” it provides. We have to give them appropriate guidelines (it’s not you we don’t trust, it’s the other guy) and rules, lessons and cautions – and lots of practice. And then we have to let go and recognize that just like everything else, this too is in the Almighty’s hands.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I have a very good marriage. We can talk about anything and we enjoy each other’s company. Our parenting styles are even in sync. There is only one issue that can sometimes be a source of conflict. My husband is outgoing and gregarious. He loves a big party and a “happening” scene. I am more introverted. I don’t enjoy the noise and commotion of a big gathering. And I especially don’t enjoy the social expectations. I like conversations with a small group of friends. Sometimes I feel like I am holding him back from having fun and that there’s something wrong with me. Doesn’t everyone love a good party?

- Loner

Dear Party Animal – Not,

Only one issue? You are one lucky lady. The Almighty made all different types of people with different character traits. Some are extroverted and some are introverted. Neither quality is morally superior to the other. They are just different aspects of who we are. And we can not be who we aren’t. You and your husband were probably attracted to each other because you each wanted a little of what you lacked, a little of what your partner has. So enjoy it. If your husband had wanted a party girl, he would have married one.

You can each engage in separate activities on occasion where the desires of your natures clash. And, like all other areas of marriage, you may also be required to compromise. You may have to accompany him to some large social gatherings. He may stay home with you and a small group of friends, or maybe just you! You can both learn and grow from each other and from your separate and different experiences. The key is not to judge each other – or yourself. Like I said, neither quality is superior (although sometimes society places more value on the extrovert). This is the way the Almighty made you – and He doesn’t make mistakes.

- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

We are constantly opening our home to guests. And both my husband and I love it. I don’t mind the effort because I enjoy the experience. Sometimes our guests are friends and sometimes they are strangers. I don’t expect them to help me cook or set the table of even bring a gift (although I happen to think it’s good character and says something about their mother if they don’t). But there is one thing that bothers me.

My husband always clears the table (with my children’s help) and sometimes the guests just sit there while he does. He doesn’t complain but it really bothers me. Any tips on dealing with this?

- (Mostly) Happy Hostess

Dear Hostess,

If your husband’s example doesn’t spur them to get up and clear, it’s hard to imagine anything will, other than perhaps a direct request. It requires a particular obtuseness and self-centeredness to sit idly by, not lifting a finger, as your host clears the table. That is an ingrained bad character trait that you are most likely not going to change. If you want to continue to have guests, you need to make peace with it. I do confess that if the guests are outright rude, this may be their first – and only – invitation. I personally do expect participation in the conversation when people come for a meal (otherwise I feel like a waitress for “party of two at the end of the table”) but maybe some of them are actually more introverted like the writer in question #2 and I am judging unfavorably! You need to be solely a giver – with no expectations of anything in return. It’s the only way to do any type of kindness. And I guess it is just possible that if they watch often enough, you will slowly make an impact – perhaps on their choice of mate anyway.

- Emuna

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