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?

Spilt Milk

The phrase “don’t cry over spilt milk” took on new meaning for me this week. I brought my computer into the kitchen on Sunday morning with the plan of getting some writing done after breakfast. Instead of moving immediately into my writing, I invited my oldest son to come join me at the computer so we could watch some sports highlights that he had missed (due to his bedtime) from the night before.  My husband brought my son’s breakfast over to him to eat on the island where we were sitting including a glass of milk. My son and I finished watching our highlights and I got up to wash the dishes. A few minutes later I heard my son exclaim, “Uh-oh, sorry Mom.” I turned around to see what he was referring to. I quickly spotted the glass of milk laying across my keyboard with most of its contents now seeping into my computer. There was a momentary pause on my part. Did that just happen I thought. After I determined the answer was a resounding “yes” I quickly picked up the glass and started to towel off my machine. I turned the keyboard upside down and did everything I could think of to dry it off. I reassured my son everything was okay. I honestly thought the computer was going to be fine. I even powered it back on about fifteen minutes later without any problems.

Two days later I pulled out my machine to do some work on it. I hadn’t used it since I had powered it on after the milk spill. When I opened the computer I noticed there might be a problem. There was milk residue on the screen and on the keyboard. I thought I had gotten all the milk off, but clearly I hadn’t. Then I tried turning the computer on. It turned on, but wouldn’t let me log in. I was getting a strange battery empty signal (even though the computer was fully charged), and the cap lock key was stuck in the ON position. I shut the machine down and tried again. The second attempt had the same issues and the computer fan was now making a loud noise I’d never heard before. I knew the machine was in trouble, so I shut it down and quickly starting scrolling through my phone for a computer repair shop.  For anyone who has gone through a similar experience, you know that you first have to take your computer in to be diagnosed ($) and then pay someone to fix it ($$$). The milk spill damaged the keyboard requiring it to be replaced.  It took a while for the cost of this accident to sink in. Wow! I thought, I had no idea an accident like this could cost so much.

When I got home, I wanted to talk with my son. While what happened was an accident I wanted him to be aware of what happened as a result. I believed it was an opportunity for him to learn and us to grow together. I didn’t see anything positive coming from getting mad at or making my son feel terrible for the damage done and the financial burden we incurred. He didn’t mean to spill the milk and none of us had any idea what might happen if he did. We all learned a lesson that day. My son learned that when we get anything liquid on Mom’s computer it can cost more than what the Lego Star Wars Death Star set costs (my son understands what this means. He has wanted this set for a while, and we had to explain even Santa couldn’t afford it!), and my husband and I learned that no one can have any liquid around our electronics, and if we do, we need to understand the risk.

We had a very calm discussion about the whole thing. While having an unexpected expense wasn’t easy to take, it was easier to get through when I reminded myself, its just money. Yes, I’ll need to work a little harder to make up for what was lost, but I can’t put a dollar amount on going through this experience with my child.

The damaged computer and bill that followed could have made me cry, but instead I grew. In my opinion, it was worth every cent.

How do handle unexpected accidents? How have you helped your child learn from the experience?