He Put the Road School in Our Roadschooling—Literally

Sun, Sep 5, 2010

General, International

He Put the Road School in Our Roadschooling—Literally

Children learn by doing. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

I lived in Europe in the 80s and 90s, where getting a driver’s license is serious business.  And I feel quite comfortable with European ways, and in cars with European people at the wheel.

We are so fortunate to have met a European-American here who divides his time not only among several countries, but also among several vehicles, some of which have wings and fly.  This man loves to shake things up.  He is fearless, adventurous, a Saint-Exupéry…and, thanks to him, the boys can say that they first learned to drive a car on the back roads of Costa Rica.

He said Boys, do you want to learn how to drive? I winced.

He said Mom, relax…it’s going to be fine.  I had my own kids up in the Cessna plane with me, and each of them got to fly it. I blanched.  But I realized how right he was.

Then he said Which of you boys wants a turn first?

My heart skipped.  But I possess the old “feeling-comfortable-in-Europe-and-with-European-drivers” thing.  So I bit my lip.

And you know something?   The boys did it.  They drove, Saint-Exupéry’s sandaled foot directly on the gas pedal and his hands close enough to, yet not touching, the steering wheel held by an excited little boy.

Muddy bridge up ahead! I interjected.  Lots of potholes!

I was a cauldron of maternal angst, nerves, and X-chromosome-y sissiness.  I rode shotgun.

Up front, the three of them were a trio of Y-chromosomes…like a crazy Mr. Toad-in-motorcar scene from The Wind in the Willows: Vrooooom!  Male laughter. Vroooom! Male laughter.

“I can drive!  I can drive!” the boys yelled afterward, jumping around and high-fiving our new friend.

I would never have allowed this in the U.S.  This is not something either he or I would recommend you do at home.  Out there, the shoulders of the road were soft.  There was nobody else coming in either direction.  It took a European in Costa Rica to get me to ease up, to see that learning would happen—the best kind, the kind that is infused with excitement and joy.  Why not learn by trying something unimaginable?   The boys—and I—had an experience allowing ourselves to learn from others, to trust in others, when it was something beyond my bandwidth as their mother to teach.

As scores and scores of potholes wrought havoc on the car’s shock absorption, Saint-Exupéry also taught the boys this gem:  

“Don’t worry.  It’s only a rental!”

Now, as roadschoolers, we can say we’ve done actual road school.  This is the boys’ biggest highlight thus far in Costa Rica, bigger than their thrill of feeding bananas to an iguana, or seeing enormous turkey vultures on the beach, or playing in the waves of the Pacific.

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