“Is that legal?” the daughter riding shotgun sent my way as I pulled out of the long line of traffic and scooted through the center lane to make a left.
“Sure it is,” I start then begin to justify. “There were no cars coming. And since we’re going left, I just simply avoided waiting through another light and…”
Then I sat there thinking, what am I doing?! I have a budding driver sitting next to me. Granted my little driving maneuver wasn’t illegal, but do I want her slipping around and through when she gets behind the wheel? Really, not so much. So why am I teaching her something I’d rather her avoid?
I stopped my justification, “Listen, my little move probably falls in the category of borderline. When you’re driving, stay in the line until you get to your turn.” The kid nodded in agreement with a little, that’s-what-you-should-do-too eyebrow raised nod.
Okay, so it’s not the first time I’ve paused, wondering what in the world kind of behavior I’m modeling for my kids. It’s not always traffic turns. But in the car, I often have to stop myself and practically sit on my phone so I’m not checking an email, sending a text, dialing a number while driving my kids around. The magnetic pull of a message (voicemail, email, tweet, Facebook, … how sad that the list goes on) is almost too much to bear. In my defense, I rarely – if ever – do anything more than talk on my phone when the car is in motion. But do I even want them thinking that’s okay?
They’re kids. With slow reflexes. They get easily distracted. Anything involving the words cell phone use and car begs disaster. Since they watch day in and day out all that I do, my actions take on the characteristics of what will be and is their normal.
It doesn’t stop with the car.
Last week, I went to lunch with a couple friends. When the waiter show up, one told him, “Nothing for me. Just water today.”
Having just ordered crab cakes, a salad and sweet tea, I couldn’t help but ask, “Really?” She had invited me to lunch, so I was a bit surprised.
“Oh, I’m on a juice fast.”
Our other friend, unfazed, commented, “Oh – you’re going to love it. How long are you doing it.”
“This time two weeks,” she replied then added, “… You know, summer is right around the corner.”
I looked at her. Then at my other friend. Waifish would be the operative description … as would mothers of teen/tween daughters. And my heart sank.
Maybe it was the conversation I had the day before trying to convince my thin daughter that she wasn’t fat, but I couldn’t help but hear the loud and clear message floating out there for our girls. “You can never be too thin. If you think you’re fat, don’t eat. If in doubt, cleanse.”
With all the outward appearance pressures that daily assault our daughters – and sons – are we thinking about the message our actions send our kids? Like my kids soaking in my fancy driving moves, others are learning how to navigate their changing body size issues. And the list goes on.
I guess between my driving and the “lunch,” a little conviction set in on the need to be aware of and possibly open the conversation on my own actions and the undeniable affect (both good and bad) they have on my kids’ lives.
This parenting gig seems never-ending in the layers upon layers of potential land mines – most of them buried under all my good intentions. But a little slowing down, some thoughtful consideration and a lot of authenticity can go a long way.
Of course, it didn’t take long for an opportunity to present itself … and in the car no less.
This time I sat at a stop sign, waiting to cross Hillcrest. Thinking my cross would be quick, I might have been perched myself in the middle of the road, blocking anyone else from going down the street. Of course within minutes, a car needed to turn onto our street. So I decided to go right rather than cross and get out the turning car’s way. But when I turned, I blundered in a bit of indecision thinking maybe I could still get across and stopped all northbound traffic as I did.
“What are you doing?!” yelled my daughter from the back of the car.
“Well, I thought I could turn, but I’m messing it all up … okay, so this is pretty much how not to drive,” I offered back.
“Good to know, Mrs Wyma,” offered one of the kids’ friends along for the ride. “You can never have enough examples of how not to do something.”
What can you do but laugh … and love. I’ve heard it covers a multitude of blunders, especially the well-intentioned ones.
Thanks for walking the road with me.