Celebrating in Fear

I think whenever a child learns how to drive, the parental figure or figures in a child’s life get stressed. With good reason. Driving is a huge responsibility. It’s dangerous in so many ways that when you really think about it, it’s tough to think about it at all.

When you’ve had someone in the immediate family die in a car wreck… Well, the echoes of that might fade, but they never go away.

Teenagers don’t necessarily perceive it the same way. The buffer of time provides a separation that enables them to do their thing more easily. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a very good thing. I don’t want them to be unable to function in a healthy way. Where we live, the ability to drive is a significant benefit. You can travel to many places on Long Island via public transportation, but it will typically take much, much longer. So much longer, in fact, that you might not go wherever you were going after all if you don’t absolutely have to.

I’m all for not letting fear hold you back in life. A couple of examples:

With Christmas just barely one month /after September 11, my husband surprised me with a vacation to Disney World in Florida, the tickets tied up with about inside a new suitcase. Departure date? The day after Christmas. I was excited and at the same time, was freaking out. Our first child was just a year old.

The newspapers were still full of profiles of those killed that terrible day. The size, scope, and pain of it all were intense and everywhere. How was I going to get on an airplane with my husband and child? I did it the same way Chris still went to work every day in Manhattan; you can’t stop living because there was a tragedy.

Fast-forward approximately 12 years from that and a drunk driver killed my husband just a few blocks from our house, while Chris was finishing his commute home. Chris was a good driver with a solid safety record behind the wheel. But when you drive, no matter your skill set, you can’t control the other drivers on the road with you. His path intersected with that of a man who’d left a poor one just minutes earlier. Unbeknownst to my husband, that other driver just recently erratically down the local main road that Chris was about to cross. That other driver pulled out from around another motorist, ran through the red light, and Chris never made it home.

A few months later – just about the exact time between September 11 and that Disney vacation – just the youngest child was due to make his first Holy Communion. Planning some kind of celebration was the last thing I wanted to do. It wasn’t about me, though. I needed to show our children that they could still be happy and celebrate things. Have parties. Live. So, even though Chris and I initially planned just a dinner with a few people for that celebration, instead I threw a much bigger party at a catering hall.

As each of our kids has become old enough to drive, I’ve been faced with the same kind of situation. There is huge fear combined with the need to let them live those milestones. Celebrate those milestones. Try to make sure they understand that distracted driving is as dangerous as driving while under the influence.

I can’t let them be affected by my fears for them to come on no matter how justified and understandable those fears happen.to be. I’m truthful with them about it, but I don’t make the point over and over again. It wouldn’t be fair to do that and I think, if anything, it might do more harm than good. I want them focused on driving when they are driving, not thinking about me worrying at home. The best I can do is make sure they receive driving lessons from professional instructors. And I tell them I’m confident they’re going to do a great job on the road. Those things, plus making sure they drive vehicles with good safety ratings, are about all I can do. I have to be content with that.

If you have children or someone in your life you worry about, how do you handle this situation? Please e-mail me at frominhere@gmail.com to share your thoughts or experiences. You might just find yourself in the next newsletter as a comment winner!

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