“Kay? It’s K.B. I was just driving down University. Someone that looks just like you was sitting next to a couple of wrecked cars. Is that you? Can I help??”

Yes, that was me.

A super nice guy, Eugene, inadvertently looked up from driving and rear ended me. I, in turn, rear ended Damon (an Eco-Safe Pest Control guy). Eugene’s car was totaled. Damon & I experienced only minor dents. This all came after one of those less than stellar days sporting more than just this wreck.

It all started with a rather early morning and less than stellar ride to school. I had arranged a tutorial for TTO without telling him anything about it. So, in order to hit home his disgust, he moved like molasses… at a pace that might challenge his Slow Walker brother.  We needed to leave by 7:15 to arrive on time. We left at 7:26. I proceeded to lecture an already down kid.

“What were you doing up there?! I woke you up almost 30 minutes ago!”
“mumble… mumble…”
“What?! I can’t hear you OR understand a word you’re saying!”
The light we need to be green turns red.
“GREAT. Now we’re going to be even later!!” I mutter then turn to him for a little more berating – even though I know better… even though every word I say has minimal positive impact, maximum negative (not only for him but for all the other ears I have tuned in to my utterances). “Not only has your stubbornness affected you, but you’re making everyone in the car late for school… And, think about your teacher who left his house early so he could meet with you. You’re not even there!!!”
Silence.
“Are you going to speak?!”
Silence.
“Do you have anything to say?!”
Silence. Staring straight ahead. Enduring the now eternal ride.

I knew my approach wasn’t helping anything. I was just so darn frustrated with the apparent apathy and lack of communication. All I needed to do was state the obvious, provided direction and let it go. Unfortunately for us all, I caved to my frustration and spent the rest of the ride struggling with and giving into my incessant lecturing of the poor kid.

By the time we got to school, it was done. We had all had enough. But that didn’t stop me from waving politely at the teacher standing at the carpool lane while hissing under my breath, “You’d better get out of this car with a smile!”
He didn’t smile. He hissed back, “Please Stop!” punctuated with a stern closing of the car door.

Yuck.

What a way to send your kid off to school. I’m not sure who was more immature – me or him. Fender Bender #1 – I’m fairly certain I would have been issued a ticket if an officer had been called to the scene.

Fast forward to my arrival home from dropping off the kids. Jack and I walk in the house and are greeted by my husband who had yet to leave for work. I, in a bit of a mood from the morning activity, wanted to slink into the couch and sulk the incident off. Jon, wants to talk about the kid’s attitude. We both take the opportunity, not to productively discuss ways we can encourage and motivate the kid, but to lay into each other. We’ve probably done this little dance less than a 1/2 dozen times in our 15-year marriage. But I bit, hook, line and sinker. This conversation ended with a similarly frustrated departure – a few sharp words, followed by silence and a door shutting.  Fender Bender #2.

Apologies instead of tickets were issued – but still an unsightly occurrence that could have been avoided.

The third wreck involved cars instead of attitudes… and it really was a doozer. But in the midst of the chaos, I had quit being so selfish, wallowing in my own sorry attitude. I called in a sister-favor to my friend Lynne who grabbed the kids from school since I was stuck waiting for the police. Then I waited – and got to know my fellow crashers.

Eugene felt terrible. He was so worried that I or Jack might have been hurt. The worst thing that happened to Jack was the fact that the jolt hurled treasures (today a set of jacks, a stuffed penguin and some golf balls) from their safe spot in his car-seat. Eugene was you, but super sharp. Within minutes of the crash, he was out of his car, insurance in hand, eager to step up & take responsiblity – not blame. The next action I especially loved, he called his folks.

Damon and I then shared a teen moment.
“Do you have kids?” I asked as we peeked in the car to check on Jack.
“Yes M’am. I’ve got 2.” (He was very polite even though he wasn’t that much younger than me.)
“How old are they?”
“12 and 13.”
“Oh….” I reply with raised eye brows.
“Yes M’am. A bit more than I ever would have thought.”

He went on to tell me that his kids, especially his son, have been a challenge. Not just laziness, lack of effort, but also the incessant asking for things – like games, shoes, clothes, etc. Even though his kid has every gaming system and every of games, he wants the new x-Box latest and greatest thing. Forget about the cost.

“He thinks I can go in the back yard and take the money off trees,” Damon lamented. “When I was his age, I had a job at Minyards bagging groceries. I didn’t ask my parents for money all the time or spend like crazy. I liked making money and having my own things.”
oooohhh… I couldn’t believe he was saying what I was thinking.
He continued, “Yeah… I don’t know what’s going on with kids these days. They lie around and expect us to buy them everything. I don’t know what it will be like in a few years … but if they keep it up – it’s not going to be good.”
He paused for a moment, then went on, “I think a lot of it if my fault. I don’t push him. It’s just… well, I’m a divorced dad. I only get to see them on the weekends and all I want to do is say ‘yes’. The ‘no’ is better, but it sure is hard.”

He’s right. The “no”, the “work hard” is better, but hard to say for a lot of us. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to hear this pest control guy say what he was saying. Yet again, I’m amazed that we are all in this together. I know some families have this stuff under control. They have kids that work hard, maybe even have jobs as a teen, but for us enabling types – it’s nice to know we aren’t alone in the trenches. “No” and “work for it yourself” will absolutely pay off — even for the apparent disinterested.

Because the truth is … just below the surface, that “disinterested” kid is actually very interested. He’s just mastered the skill at hiding it. Case in point, I watched my kid who wasn’t too happy with me this morning work his tail off this afternoon, busting through his home work.

Deep down he cares.

Fender Bender #3 might have been the most dramatic, but it sure was nice to connect – even with a couple strangers. It actually made my day.

Thanks for walking the road with me.
-Kay

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