When your Kids take the Wheel – the Nail Biting Begins

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1936 Ford Coupe

Remember when you learned how to drive? Was it via a Driver’s Education Class or through the help of a husband, father or mother? A Sibling?

My Dad drove miles every day to work to provide for our family. He was extremely proud of his Chevrolet; the only brand he would buy. He wouldn’t allow his three daughters to drive, let alone take driving lessons. He flatly refused by calling his car his “only means of livelihood.”

My boyfriend, who later became my husband, taught me how to drive in his 1936 black Ford coupe. I had never driven a stick shift before and kept getting the clutch and the gas pedal mixed up. We drove on small country dirt roads, but when we came to the first intersection, I faced a strip of black asphalt piled at least four feet high down the middle of the cross road.

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My friend shouted for me to break, but I hit the gas pedal instead, and we sailed right over the top of that obstacle at 35 miles per hour. I hit my head on the roof light and cracked its plastic plate. We flew through the air and landed safely on the opposite side of the pile. Amazingly, we continued our driving lesson on the other side. I learned the importance of focus and concentration. Soon I was able to keep the three pedals straight and figured out how to use them.

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My oldest daughter took Driver’s Ed, and drove with her dad or me until she finally got her license. I was a parent chaperone on a high school field trip when she drove the car. There were four other girls with us. Pam had difficulty concentrating with the noise and chatter in the car. There were a few close calls as we manipulated the city streets.

images (15)When we got close to our destination, she pulled into the wrong side street. Everyone was yelling at her to turn around and go back. She was flustered, distracted, and confused. I was shouting my own instructions to watch out for that man crossing the street at an angle toward her, but she didn’t hear me.

She pulled over to the curb just as he was reaching almost the same point. He literally arched his back over the hood of the car as his feet jumped up on the curb.

To this day I can still see him back bending over the front of the car with a shocked look on his face; his feet way ahead of him. That he remained upright is a miracle in and of itself; that she didn’t hit him was another. He looked just like a character from a Wily Coyote – Road Runner cartoon.

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Pam was completely oblivious to what was happening. According to Driver’s Ed statistics. 50% of teens are in an accident the first year they start driving. How parents ever survive teaching their children how to navigate a car especially in traffic is a wonder. Waiting patiently for them to return safely from an errand or an evening out is nerve wracking, to say the least. And how to describe the feeling when the whir of the engine finally pulls into the driveway? sweet relief!

There were no cell phones back then. Parents dreaded their home phone to ring when their older children were out somewhere. It could mean anything from running out of gas, sliding on the ice into a tree, or locking themselves out of the car. Heaven forbid if it was anything more serious. I remember well the familiar cringe when the phone rang.

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When they were all home, the phone was constantly ringing. Because we had a large family, limits had to be placed on how long anyone could stay on the phone. The girls would run for the phone at the first ring convinced the call was for them.

I worked at home as a free-lance writer and consultant in addition to holding leadership roles in my community and church and needed to use the phone often, as did their father who had many responsibilities as a Boy Scout Leader and volunteer at our church. Believe me, we kept the wires hot. How we endured one phone is mind boggling.

In my adult life, I’ve always had a telephone phobia. I resent the interruptions when the telephone rings during dinner or at the climax of my favorite T.V. show. I don’t like to talk to people without seeing them (and their reactions). I dislike calling for assistance and getting an artificial computer voice that requires me to push buttons until they finally push me out the other end. It never occurred to me why I have this phobia. Now, looking back, I say is it any wonder?download

Leave your Baggage and Unresolved Issues Outside, Please!

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Expectations can lead to disappointment, dissatisfaction and unhappiness; especially when they collide with reality. Yet without this lofty perspective, you may rob yourself of the motivation you need to complete your goals and dreams. If you are forever pigeon-holing yourself into the lower-rungs of failure through negative thoughts, how can you expect to succeed?

I’ve always thought of myself as a realist. For awhile at least, I was afraid to hope for anything better. In order to deal with the many challenges life placed in my path, I decided never to assume anything and to expect even less. By lowering my expectations I was less likely to be disappointed or hurt.

I had no pre-conceived notions. I was simply grateful for what little I received and chose not to complain, but my spirit wilted into a bottomless pit. I quit feeling altogether. I became a zombie, but without the makeup. The real me began to disappear. I spent many hours on my knees praying for patience and for ways to improve my role in life. Essentially, rather than fighting back, I continued to fall through the cracks until one day, I hit rock bottom.

I knew I had to make a change in my life or die trying. Through the grace of God I met a friend who had perhaps seen me fade into non-existence. She invited me to a painting class. Me paint, I can’t even draw? Another woman gave me an assignment to write something for a church group – a skit that the youth would perform. Me? Write? I hadn’t written since high school.

I found myself learning new things. The Public Library was my teacher. My art friends and a unique and professional art instructor introduced me to a magic world where I lost myself in a rainbow of color and creation. For those few hours each week, I was able to forget the pain and release that part of me that had all but vanished.

I grew stronger. I began to laugh again. I made new friends and made plans. I started getting excited about life. My family noticed a different person emerge; a happier woman who glowed with anticipation. For awhile, they didn’t recognize me. My now ex-husband seemed even more withdrawn and morose. I sadly noticed that he was happiest when I was down, and when I seemed happy, he threw out more sarcasm and barbs. Jealousy? Resentment? Since we rarely communicated, I had no way of knowing.

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When two people marry, each brings into the marriage their own expectations and point of view about what a marriage should be like. According to couple counselors, differing expectations not discussed beforehand usually cause unresolved issues and arguments.

If the two lovebirds don’t correct these attitudes and beliefs, it is the beginning of the end. Instead of allowing their love to bring them closer, they draw a line in the sand in a power stand-off. If one party backs down before the problems are discussed and resolved, they will be viewed as the weaker party, the one who constantly makes concessions.

If this passive behavior is exploited by the more aggressive partner, an escalation of power and abuse begins a pattern of controlling behavior that continues throughout the marriage. Constant belittling, disrespect, and outright verbal assaults teardown self-esteem and destroy intimacy.

Couple’s counseling may help, but in many instances the ruts couples get themselves into are very difficult to break. If people would only lay the groundwork ahead of time. One young bride found herself in just such a power struggle. Her husband had pulled out the “junk drawer” in anger as he searched for a tool. The drawer fell to the floor in a clatter, further scattering some of the items.

The husband went off to work leaving the mess behind. What were his expectations? “A wife cleans up the house. It is her job to take care of things at home.”  The surprise on his face when he got home, told him that something was wrong with this scenario.

His wife had her own expectations. “I’m not going to pick up after him like his mother did. He’s a grown man and can pick up his own messes. If I clean up this drawer, I will be forever picking up after him, and he will treat me like a maid instead of a wife.”

A power struggle went on for almost a month. Both parties stepped around the drawer and high-stepped over the mess surrounding it. They fixed dinner, did the dishes together, all while tip-toeing around the drawer and each other. The tension was almost visible.

Finally at the end of the month, the husband cleaned up his mess and put the drawer away. The smart wife said not a word. She didn’t rub his face in it. She didn’t say “I won!” They both had learned something about respect and how to treat the person they loved and had committed their lives to.

If these little squabbles aren’t resolved in the beginning, the grooves of habit get so entrenched that it’s almost impossible to think and behave in new ways. Make up the rules of your marriage together. Find out what each of you hope for and want from your relationship. Whether you believe it or not, prayer does help. If your partner refuses or does not want to pray together, do it yourself. One praying partner is better than none.

The joys of a close and intimate relationship equal a lifetime of blessed memories.

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