Keeping my kids safe is one of my primary parental responsibilities. During a recent family road trip, it pains me to admit that I failed this duty. Descending a mountain pass, I encountered Slowpoke. Miles of winding roads prevented me from passing, and my patience was gone. When an open stretch appeared I started to pass but in my haste misjudged the oncoming traffic and had to slam on my brakes and swing back behind Slowpoke. A tirade ensued, spiced with a few choice words. Even worse, I was riding their tail, unnerving them so much they pulled over abruptly, again requiring me to slam on the brakes. As I hit the gas to pass, a few more choice words echoed in the car as I flew past.
The silence in the car was deafening. My hands were trembling on the steering wheel, and my gut was knotted. It hit me – I had been an idiot! As my head cleared after a few miles, I asked myself, “Why had I acted so recklessly?” Instead of keeping safety as my primary focus, I allowed impatience to rule my thoughts. With wife and children in the car, my error was all the worse; I had endangered their lives and that of the other driver. What kind of example had I set for my kids? The lesson I had taught was very bad and dangerous for my future drivers… Parental duty required I fess up.
Asking for everyone’s attention, I explained that the other driver had not been in the wrong; yeah, they were being a slowpoke, but they did nothing wrong. I was the one who was fully in the wrong, and had made a major mistake by creating an unsafe situation because of impatience. When driving, I explained how safety comes first, and that things must not cloud the mind. I apologized for creating such a dangerous, tense and scary situation. There was not much response from the kids, but I knew they were pondering me and my words. Now my challenge is to continually reinforce this lesson so they embrace it as truth for the time they start driving!
While it was very admirable of Thomas to turn a negative situation into a positive learning experience, I fear it didn’t have the impact he hoped it would. I talked to the kids about the incident a few days later. James, the one closest to driving age, just said “she was driving too slowly. Dad was right to be mad.” Oops, point lost there. I looked at Grace and Grant and they looked at me with a clueless stare. It was aggravating.
Thomas meant well and I was so impressed that he so quickly turned the situation around for the benefit of his kids. Then to have them not get out of it what was intended was a shame. It made me wonder how many other times Thomas and I think we’ve delivered some really wonderful bit of parenting wisdom and thought, by their silence, that they were mulling it over, absorbing the wisdom into every fiber of their beings so as to always remember this lesson. I can only comfort myself by figuring that sometimes they will absorb it (and maybe not admit it) and sometimes it will just go “poof” into vapor and be another learning opportunity lost.