"Guess what your son did today? Go ahead, I bet you can't guess."
When Buddy Boy is "my son", I know it must have been something particularly egregious.
"I went shopping today and picked up a new outfit for Sweet Pea, and when we came home I took her upstairs to her room to try it on. I left Buddy Boy in the kitchen eating a sandwich"
"Yea, well, OK, what did he do?"
"I was only upstairs for 5 minutes. When I came down I couldn't find him. I spent about a minute searching the house and screaming his name. The front door was still closed."
By this point Liz is getting visibly more upset, reliving what was obviously traumatic to her. I, being the sensitive type (and realizing that I did not get a frantic call in the middle of the day, the house had not burned down, and the kids were both in the house) chuckled in anticipation of a good story. I just knew that with all this buildup, there was a good story coming. Perhaps this was not the ideal response.
"I went into the garage and he had the car running. The lights were on, the windshield wipers were on, and fluid was spurting out. And the garage door was still closed."
Well, obviously this was a potential serious safety hazard, but all had come out all right. So I did the obvious thing. I laughed. All I could think of was my friend Dave's kid, who had managed to get their car rolling down their driveway and across the street into a neighbor's driveway, when he was two. Yet another milestone that Buddy Boy was behind in.
"He had to fish the keys out of my purse. He could have driven the car into the house, or into the neighbor's house. He could have been thrown from the car. He could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning."
OK, so the CO poisoning was a real threat, but the only realistic one. And also pretty unlikely, as we never let Buddy Boy out of our site for more than 5 minutes, just because he is a little mischievous. Liz's car is an automatic, and there is a brake interlock. You have to depress the brake pedal to get the car in gear. His legs aren't long enough (yet).
"Maybe next time I'll tell him to drive your car, you seem so nonchalant."
Neither of the kids were in the room. I could put on my "daddy's upset" face later. For now, I was just enjoying the moment.
Most every kid (at least most every boy) dreams of driving from at least the age of 2 (and even sooner if you watch "The Simpsons" opening segment). We have known that Buddy Boy has wanted to drive since he could talk (about 3 years old).
Buddy Boy's bus drivers have related to us many times that he asks them what certain buttons and levers do, and he asks them questions about how to do certain things (like turn on the windshield wipers). He asks us those questions, too, when we are driving, but we aren't so foolish as to actually give him answers. We knew he'd go ahead and try to drive himself. He's told us multiple times that he knows how to drive. He even made himself a "driver's license" one day out of cardboard, when I told him he needed one to drive. Drew a picture of himself on there and everything. I was impressed.
We all hope that all of our kids will be successful once they grow up. Success takes many forms. But driving a car is a big deal for most kids as they grow up, as it represents (and enables) freedom. Freedom from your parents, freedom to do what you want to do. Freedom to apply for jobs not accessible to public transportation.
So I hope that Buddy Boy will be able to drive some day. It will be OK if he doesn't, but it would be great if he can. And though I'll lecture him about the "safety violation" that "driving" at his age entails, I won't try to dampen his ambition to drive, or to do any of the other things that will help him to become successful and happy in life.
And next time I'll even try to be more sympathetic to Liz.
Edit-Since writing this I have sat down and talked to Buddy Boy about this. Of course, he is able to parrot back to me all of the bad things that could have happened. But when we get to talking about how the car could have hit someone or something, he just shrugs his shoulders and says "But the handbrake was on. It couldn't move. I couldn't get the handbrake off. I wasn't strong enough." And at the end, after talking about CO poisoning, and how dead is forever, and how much we were really worried about him, his final response was-
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.