Ever try to pay someone a compliment, but you could sense that the person you were trying to praise may not have taken it the way you intended? I had such an experience last Saturday.
In part because we were making a trip to Quincy which meant an opportunity to drive, my 16-year-old daughter, Anna, was willing to roll out of bed at the unheard hour of 8 a.m. As Anna gently guided the car onto the Broadway exit at Quincy I attempted to salute her improving driving skills.
“Your driving doesn’t cause my heart to race nearly as much as it used to,” I said matter-of-factly.
“Than-n-n-n-ks,” Anna slowly replied as she contemplated whether her dear old dad had indeed just given her a commendation.
I quickly assured her I was being sincere, citing a few instances when she was behind the wheel and my heart rate had spiked. I pointed out that in contrast to those excursions the drive to Quincy had been uneventful, which was appreciated.
Truth be told Anna’s driving has improved as she has gained experience, which I would think is to be expected, although some parents/driving instructors might disagree. A large part of Anna’s driving time has come with her mother, Nancy, riding shotgun. However, I’ve logged my share of time riding next to our family’s newest driver, as my fingernail marks in the passenger side dashboard will confirm.
I try to offer insights to Anna as different teachable moments arise, without hitting volume levels that might cause my daughter hearing damage. And while to date I believe Anna’s hearing is just fine, I sometimes question her willingness to listen. However, recently Anna let me know that she is indeed listening and putting into practice at least some of my sage advice about safe driving.
One evening as Anna was driving the two of us home I commented that, based on the speed we were traveling, it seemed her right foot had increased in weight since our last outing.
“I’m going the speed limit,” she growled.
“But just because you can go the speed limit, doesn’t mean you need to,” I countered.
As we headed east on St. Mary’s Avenue, we approached its intersection with James Road, which at times can be a spot of traffic congestion. If a vehicle is waiting to make a left-hand turn from James Road onto St. Mary’s, the visibility of anyone wanting to turn right onto St. Mary’s can be greatly reduced. That evening there were not only vehicles waiting to turn onto both directions of St. Mary’s, but also some waiting on St. Mary’s to turn left onto James Road.
I could feel my body tensing as we approached the traffic and our speed was not being reduced. And while thankfully we passed through the area without incident, I wasted no time in explaining to my daughter how a more defensive attitude in such a setting could prove beneficial.
“But I had the right-of-way,” argued Anna.
“You did indeed, and I know you were going the speed limit, but that won’t matter if someone pulls in front of you,” I replied.
Had Anna listened to my motoring insights or were my words just “white noise?” I had no way of knowing until a week or so later.
Anna and her mother were approaching the same area with a comparable amount of traffic congestion. This time, however, Anna slowed down, which proved a blessing since two vehicles shot out in front of her onto St. Mary’s.
“I was hearing your voice in my head,” explained Anna of her reason for slowing down.
The fact my teen-ager is indeed listening to me opens the door to other important messages I might wish to convey:
• “Keep your grades up.”
• “There will be plenty of time for boys later!”
• “Don’t argue, your mother IS right.”