Saturday, April 7, 2007

Driving Ambitions

photo credit Orrin

"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-

"But I had to test my driving skills."

I had to bite my lip.

Joe is 212


Daisy said...

"Yet another milestone that Buddy Boy was behind in." Oh, my, I can hear the laughter -- and still feel the panic. What a kid!

mcewen said...

It's so funny how we all flip flop in our reactions between the near miss and disaster. All the usual explanations that you might give a child are shot down in flames which is so painful to the parental brain.
Have a great weekend.

daedalus2u said...

The ability for independant action is such a double edged sword. I remember being in a fathers' group when we were talking about our children lying. Everyone said how bad it was that their children lied about this bogus little transparent lies that made no difference at all, and how they wanted their children to always be truthful.

When it came to be my turn to talk, I said that I would like my children to be able to lie when it was important, such as if Nazis ever came to the door and asked "are there any Jews here".

That kind of took everyone aback and the subject got changed.

Ms. Clark said...


Very good point. It's kind of how I feel about my dog. She'll bite me if she thinks I'm going to hurt her feet (we don't clip toenails here). All I can think is that it would be awful to train her self-defense out of her (in this case I don't think it's possible, her reaction is very primal... life or death defense of her feet).

My NT kid at about age 4 drove (rode) my car down the slanted driveway into the street, backwards, of course, with the bumper stopping just short of a neighbor's front yard fence.

If a car had been coming when s/he put the car in reverse (I'm not sure what s/he did, or if s/he needed the ignition key to do it... we had a pretty old car,
s/he could have causes a pretty serious accident. S/he could have run over another child, I suppose. Anyway, it was pretty scary. I don't think I found any humor in it at all at the time. It's a funny story now.

Then there was the time the kid set a tortilla chip on fire, carried it from the kitchen to the living room, dropped it on a skirt I had been hemming... burnt a small hole in the skirt... I don't remember where I was at the time, maybe in my bedroom. And the time the kid put a car key into the electric outlet and got a jolt.

My NT friend from highschool (when she was little)put a pair of tweezers in an outlet and shut down the lights for part of her neighborhood.

Really, no one should have children, their too dangerous. :-)

daedalus2u said...

Something you might have said (and perhaps still could), is that when he needs to "test" his driving skills, he needs someone there who does know how to drive, to make sure that he is doing it right.

We all want our children to (eventually) do things that they are currently incapable of doing safely. The "problem" is they don't have the intellectual capacity to understand their limits, and that they can't do these things safely.

When my mother was 5, one of her cousins set a fire that burned down the barn. My grandmother didn't know what to do, so she instilled great fear of fire in my mother by setting her dress on fire, letting it burn up a little bit, and then putting it out. Multiple times. It was my mother's favorite dress, and one that her mother didn't like.

Hearing my mother and grandmother talk about it years later, it was pretty clear that my grandmother didn't really "get it". Learning how to use fire safely is something that children at the time (80 years ago, living on a farm) needed to be able to do. They cooked using fire, their light was from fire (candles), their heat was from fire. Conditioning them to be afraid of fire wasn't a useful alternative. My mother even said, that she was so afraid of fire, that if there was a fire, she wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

My mother let us "play" with fire under controlled circumstances where were were "safe".

Anne said...

That's so funny. Maybe your little buddy would enjoy testing his driving skills at the go-cart track. That's what we used to do. It's fun!

kristina said...

Well, you could say that Buddy Boy has clearly some strong imitative skills going......... I guess Liz is going to start hiding her keys?

(And you too?)