Crash Course

Getting into an accident is the worst, right? Assuming no one gets hurt, it’s still stressful with insurance, police, getting the car to the shop for repairs, and more.

Our youngest is learning to drive. My husband and I have two different approaches with our son. My husband wants to take things very slow. I want to take things slow, but push my son so he can get better at driving, and gain confidence in his skills.

My youngest and I were out for a drive. We started in an empty parking lot. He did great. After driving around for a while, I thought he was ready to venture into some neighborhood side roads. He continued to do well. He entered a few arterials a little fast, but we talked about the need to slow down and enter them more cautiously. We continued driving on. He drove to four way stops, down side roads, and was doing so well we decided to keep going as we got closer to our house.

Following a four way stop, into an even less busy part of our neighborhood, a car came up behind us. My son noticed it and I told him not to worry about them. When he turned up a hill he was going at a snail’s pace (I’d be surprised if he was going much over 5 MPH). Knowing the car was still behind us, I encouraged him to push on the gas pedal to pick up the pace. We had originally planned to take the first right turn but missed it because another car was parked too close to the intersection. We decided he’d make the next right. Instead of slowing down at the arterial, he came in fast and knew he need to correct his position or he’d hit one of the parked cars on either side of the street. I yelled, “brake. Brake. BRAKE!!!” He started to brake but too late and we ended up tapping one of the parked cars.

Adrenaline kicked in. My son was upset by what happened. I was upset I was going to have to knock on a few doors to see whose car it was. We both calmed down. I knocked on a handful of doors, no answer. I left a note of apology and how to contact us on the windshield of the damaged car. I drove us the rest of the way home. My son let me know he heard me saying brake, but he couldn’t compute what he needed to do with his body. It was insightful but I told him, you have to be prepared to stop suddenly at all times. We decided it was something he’d need to practice.

My husband wasn’t thrilled with what happened. He never said I told you so, but could see he was thinking it. I had to reassess was I pushing my son too much? Or was my approach having a negative impact on his abilities? We decided my husband would take him on his next lesson, which he did. They practiced parking. I took my son back the following day to resume driving. I didn’t want the fender bender to move him back to square one. He asked following if he could drive with me again, and when I thought he’d be ready for the side streets. I told him yes, and that we’d work on sharping some of his skills and reflexes before we went back out on public roads.

My son wants to be pushed. He knows he needs it to conquer things he’s uncomfortable with (I believe many of us can relate). My husband wants to go slow, protecting our son, but also quelling his discomfort with our son’s modest driving experience. We’ll have to continue to work with our son together and somehow blend our techniques. The good news is, we have time. There is no rush per se for him to get his license anytime soon. We’ll take it one driving lesson at a time.

How have you gotten your child to work through their discomfort? How do you balance helping them grow while recognizing your own discomfort in their capabilities, and struggle with how to help them be better?

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