Monday, January 25, 2010

When There's No Excuse

Jessica Rabbit

Did I ever tell you? I lost my driver's license in high school. I can imagine someone prodding me in the ribs and asking straight faced, "Don't you know you're supposed to keep track of these things?" I wished that had been the case, believe me, but it wasn't. Teenage drivers don't have a lot of leeway where the accumulation of points is concerned and I maximized mine without much trouble.

Like Jessica Rabbit, I really wasn't trying to be bad, though unlike her, I couldn't appeal to the obvious, "I'm just drawn that way." I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time doing precisely what I very well knew I shouldn't have been. Both occasions involved peer pressure and both presented ample opportunity to act differently. There really was no excuse.

My father, as you might expect, "hit the ceiling" each time, but when I received notice of a hearing to suspend my license, he did something I've always appreciated. He went along with me. Some might suggest facing the music alone would be a not-soon-forgotten lesson, but my father didn't see it that way. He said having to walk for six months or a year would give me more than enough time to think about the consequences of my actions; there was no need to "rub it in."

It was one of those formative experiences that you wish you hadn't needed but later on, you're grateful for. I learned I could survive the disapproval of my friends, something that has helped immensely since. More importantly, however, I learned about forgiveness. On the way home following the hearing, my father was genuinely kind. However much my inability to run errands for him would pose an inconvenience, he let it go. All that concerned him was how I felt.

Because of his willingness to forgive and move on, I was eventually able to look at the situation with a great deal less self-blame. I was foolish, yes. I'd failed to trust my own judgment and be assertive. That didn't mean there was something wrong with me or that spending the next nine months (as it turned out) beating myself up was going to make me a better person. In other words, he taught me it was all right to forgive myself, a lesson I try to pass along whenever I have the chance. It's one of those things he did, showing me what it means to be a father, when I didn't even know it.

(Creative Commons image of Jessica Rabbit figurine (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) by San Diego Shooter via Flickr)
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