Life in the pedestrian lane: You can’t Google it!

  • By Virginia Walters
  • Saturday, January 10, 2015 4:57pm
  • LifeCommunity

Granddaughter No. 7 is getting her driver’s license next month. She took a driver’s class and passed with flying colors so she’s on the way!

Today’s kids don’t want to drive like we did. She is a few months past the minimum age for the license and she didn’t even get her permit until a year past the time she was eligible. When I was a kid, and my own kids, too (her father especially) a driver’s license was the first big milestone to be conquered. Of course, we had grown up driving: sitting on dad’s lap to drive on the dirt road to Grandma’s, jumping in the pickup to take it to the house from the barn yard, herding the wheel tractor around the hay field to pick up bales; from the time we could reach the pedals, we had motorized wheels of some kind. Different time, different place. The culture has changed and now, for whatever reason, driving isn’t as important as it was as a signal that one is responsible enough to be trusted with wheels.

Her taking lessons to drive got me thinking about how we learn things. She took lessons because, frankly, she’s stubborn, and no one in the family wanted to undertake teaching her to drive from a cold beginning. The only motorized thing she had ever herded across the yard was a four-wheeler … and while not a catastrophe, it came close. The driving instructor knew just how to make her comfortable, and she reacted like she was in school learning to add and subtract, so they got on well. And she has good driver instincts. Experience will only add to her skill.

Some things are learned by osmosis, like our generation learned to drive. We grew up with a steering wheel and gear shift right there at all times. No TV, no iPod, no cell phone to distract us from a serious intent to know how to drive. And cooking. We women of a certain age, and our children, were inundated with “cooking” every day. Mom was home and the troops needed to be fed. If one were lucky enough to be the offspring of a really good cook, it came effortlessly: “Hey, Sis, put a pot of water on for noodles”; “Please measure me out a cup of milk”; before long, after a painless apprenticeship cooking was so instilled in our psyches it became second nature: 11 a.m.? Time to start lunch; Thanksgiving? Dinner here!

But some things we need to really work to learn. Try as I might, I couldn’t pick up how to knit just by watching. And my mother-in-law, who knitted beautifully, tried to teach me with little success. I finally bought a book and sat down by myself, and with what she had shown me, taught myself to knit (digression … as I was typing I mistyped “knit” as “knot.” Call it a Freudian slip, because that was how my first attempts at wielding those needles seemed to progress). I am not a talented knitter. I can follow directions and turn out slippers and mittens and doll clothes, but I’ll never do it effortlessly while watching TV like some of my friends do.

The difference between skill and talent also determines how we learn something. A skill can be learned, and one may develop it to expert level (or not), but a talent is there from the beginning, and only needs to be nurtured to become instinctual. Music is an example. I’m sure we all had at least one friend who sat down at the piano and banged out a perfect Boogie Woogie while we struggled to find middle C. (Need I mention I don’t play the piano either.) Or the other friend who took piano lessons faithfully, practicing for that hour a day, and can play “Yellow Bird” skillfully, but not with feeling. Skill is to be admired, but talent, if nurtured, should be cherished.

I spent twenty-plus years acutely aware of learning styles and sometimes the lack of such. Some kids came ready to sit with a book and absorb all they read, others were all over the place needing to act out each lesson in some way (did YOU count on your fingers?). Some needed to talk it through (heaven help us all) but they all eventually got the picture and could then act on the knowledge in their own individual way.

Granddaughter No. 7 learned to drive with ease, so I’d venture to say she’s probably got her dad’s natural bent to have wheels. I think of how much easier it would have been for her and the family if the time and place were such that classes had not been necessary. However, in the same breath, and harking back to the classrooms I’ve known, I’m glad it did not fall to me to teach her to drive.

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at vewalters@gci.net.

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