When my daughter Julia was born eighteen years ago, there were a lot of “What ifs.” When she was just three years old and jumped behind the steering wheel of my car, I took a snap shot of that moment, secretly wondering if driving would ever be a possibility for her. Now, fast forward fifteen years, when Julia asks to learn how to drive a car. I explained to her that the class could be done, but she would have to work real hard to pass the 35 question state permit test that could not be modified. She agreed, and so the journey began. I enrolled her at the high school’s driver’s education program, in which they informed me that in the first few sessions, the permit test would be given. If by chance she did not pass the test, then she could not continue the class. I felt pretty confident because Julia had studied a lot over the last summer, and I knew she could do it. She expressed how she wanted to do this because she was the oldest of the three sisters, and she had to get her permit first (I guess a little competition doesn’t hurt).
Well, in February, she passed the test. The school administration called me and said that it was a go. However, since she was eighteen years of age (and an adult), she had to pick up the driver’s permit at the DMV (driver’s facility). Much to our surprise, we went to go pick up the paperwork and they insisted that Julia had to take the test again. Not because of her disability, but in the state of Illinois, if you are eighteen years or older, the test needs to be taken only at the DMV. So, the state employee looked at me coldly and said: “Ma’am, if your daughter knew this three weeks ago, she will know it now. Please take a seat and we will take her back.” I cautiously sat in the waiting area, and soon enough, Julia popped her head around the corner with her thumbs up. SHE PASSED IT AGAIN!!! It was one of my PROUDEST moments as a parent! Not only did she prove herself to the hesitant staff at our high school but also to the driver’s facility in the state of Illinois. Julia did get her permit before her sister Krista, and that was her goal! By the way, she did the same thing while learning to ride a two wheel bike.
Julia finished the instructional portion of Drivers Ed, and she continues to practice almost daily. However, her sister, Krista, just got her driver’s permit, and so now we have two learning at the same time. I feel safe taking the girls to practice at the cemetery where I learned, while my husband, Mark, already has them out on the real roads.
I don’t know how this will end up with Julia, but I do know that the outcome is her choice. With all her evaluations, screenings and others who may have doubted this, at the end of the day, Julia now knows how to operate a vehicle. What was once my dream has now become hers.
I was asked to share our story because it is a subject that is not widely discussed. I try not to discourage any of my children from doing what they truly want to do. You may have heard this quote before: “If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.”