The other day I was driving Claire and her carpool to dance when two teaching moments passed right in front of us. Ever since Zach was gearing up to get his learner’s permit, I have tried hard to use every moment in the car as a teachable moment. What to do behind the wheel of a car, what not to do, how to get from point A to point B, street names, directions….you name it I tried hard to cram it down his throat. I’ve now begun the same things with Lucas. And along the way, Claire has been listening. She has picked up what I’ve been trying to teach. She loves to direct me home. I’ll tell her she is in charge of directions and I make any changes in my direction until she tells me, so it’s up to her to get us home. It’s a game only she loves. She loves to play my games in the car, but the other day my teachable moments turned serious.
Claire was in the passenger seat, goofing around and trying to “make friends” with those who had the unfortunate luck of pulling up beside a giggly, twelve-year-old girl. At one stop light a motor cycle pulled up beside us and Claire turned and waved. The light turned green and he was off like a rocket. Most people who pull up beside a mini-van can’t wait to escape from our kind. They either don’t want to be beaten by a lovely, rolling kid-mobile or they think we’ll be slow as hell as we pay attention to our brood screeching in the back of the kid-mobile. Whatever the reason, most motorists try hard to get away from me, but what they don’t know is that I’m not a typical mini-van driver. I pay attention to stop lights, when they turn green I go. I drive the speed limit, and I don’t do distracted driving, for the most part. Even though I try hard to not let myself get distracted I couldn’t help but smile at Claire as she smiled and waved at the motorcyclist who pulled away quickly at the stop light. At the next stop light he had the misfortune of being, once again, subjected to Claire’s playfulness, and then again at the next.
As we pulled away from the third stoplight I saw a car stopped in the middle of the road in my lane with the flashers very dimly flashing. I looked over my shoulder as I flipped on blinker and moved over to the right lane behind the motorcyclist. I hoped the cars behind me would quickly follow suit as we were rapidly approaching the disabled car. I watched in my rear-view as one car and then another and another merged into the right lane so they could avoid the car stopped in the middle of the road next to the median. As we got closer and closer I could see a lone figure standing at the driver’s side door in between the open door and the car talking on his cell phone. My blood ran cold. It was a young teenage driver. All I could imagine was an oncoming car not being able to see his dim flashers and smashing into his car with him standing in harm’s way. In my mind’s eye, I saw Zach.
The teenage driver was an accident waiting to happen.
My first lesson with Claire began in earnest, right then and there. I told her if she ever breaks down in her car she should call for help. And then I told her she should get away from the car just in case someone wasn’t paying attention causing them to slam into her car parked on the side of the road. It was as I was delivering this lesson with fear in my voice that my next lesson happened.
The motorcyclist in front of us was attentive, driving the speed limit, obeying the rules of the road when a young, inexperienced teenage driver turned right as the motorcyclist passed through his green stoplight. The motorcyclist swerved into the left lane to avoid being hit as I laid on my horn to alert the other driver. I told Claire I was so happy the motorcyclist was paying attention and I went on to point out how awful that could have been if he had been as distracted as the teenager who made a right turn into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
The whole scenario was an accident waiting to happen.
In both of these instances I pictured Zach while I was using the teaching moments for Claire. The first thing I did after I dropped Claire at dance was to go and buy Zach a safety kit for his car. He is now the proud owner of a flashlight, a rain poncho, glow-sticks, jumper cables and, to me, the most important feature of all ~ an orange safety triangle to put behind his car if he ever breaks down. When I gave it all to him, I told him the story of the broken down car with the teenager standing next to it. He wrapped me in a giant hug and said, “Thanks for caring about me, Mom.” I don’t want him to be an accident waiting to happen.
Oh, for the love of my children…