Parents these days

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of criticism of parents by other parents. It’s a hard time to be a parent, I think. I mean that globally, and I mean it personally.

A few days ago, in Nextdoor, my neighborhood online group, a trending post made me furious. A mom was posting that she saw a high school boy zipping through traffic in a BMW, presumably his parents’, and was causing havoc. She wanted the parents to see the post and know what he’s doing when they’re not with him. I get it. I’d want to know too. The problem isn’t with her post per se, it is with some (many) of the comments.

People took the opportunity to bash these unwitting parents. I understand, reckless drivers are maddening. But it’s not the parents’ fault. I fought the urge on several occasions to respond with, “Do you honestly think that the parents have never told him not to drive like that?!”

Parents can’t be there 24/7. At some point, we have to turn over the keys and trust. Is it stressful? You bet! It’s also worrisome, sometimes angering and at its worst, it can be heartbreaking.

I suppose I take special exception to these blaming comments because I have two teen drivers. One is in another state and, she has been driving for a while. The other lives at home and has only a permit right now. He’s a good driver. A very good one. He loves cars and so there’s a component to his driving that I didn’t have to deal with when teaching his sister. In a word, it’s performance.

He cares about horsepower, gear boxes, acceleration time, handling, cornering and suspension. All of which I couldn’t care less about. Our cars work. Enough said.

He spends a fair amount of his free time researching engines, watching Top Gear, and reading about the latest Bugatti.

Now, we don’t own sports cars. So it’s not like I’ve given him a Nissan GTR with a twin turbo-charged, 4.2-liter engine or an Audi R8 with a Lamborghini V-10 to zip down the tree- lined streets of Matthews in. (I learn things on our drives.) But there is a marked difference between our Lexus and our Honda Crosstour. And he notices them. And … he likes them. “I love getting the Lexus up to speed on Hemby. It happens so fast.” Thanks, bud. Hadn’t noticed. (As the adrenaline practically drips from his fingers around the wheel.)

Sometimes on the highway, he’ll say, “Mom, don’t you ever feel like just punching it?” And because I try not to lie (and because he knows me better), I say, “Only always.”

I do. I want to drive it like I stole it! I want to drive like I’m on the German Autobahn while the rest of Germany is occupied watching the national team playing in the World Cup finals. I want to drive like Matt Leblanc on the Top Gear time track.

But, I don’t because I also want to live and let live and not get motion sick in the process. So I keep it in check. But it’s not always easy. Driving fast is fun. I get it.

So I’ll take Zach back to Germany when he’s licensed and let him open it up. Once he feels what 100 mph+ feels like, maybe it’ll quench that thirst. Or maybe it’ll be a taste of the good stuff, and he’ll want more. I don’t know.

But I can’t change my son. I can impress upon him that driving is serious business and that there is a time and a place for everything. I believe that. I try not to say, “Well, I never!” Cuz, I probably have or would given the chance. Because I’m human.

So when I read that post about the teenage boy driving like a bat out of hell, I don’t condemn the parents. I don’t even condemn the kid. I sympathize.

When Zach gets his license very shortly, he’ll be driving our Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. And I’m happy about that. He hasn’t started driving the Jeep yet because it’s a stick, and we decided that he would learn to drive on our other cars and complete his full sixty hours on an automatic before switching over.

While the Jeep can do some fun stuff, speed isn’t one of them. It’s a six speed. And getting it up to 45 mph on Hemby takes some doing. It requires at least four gear shifts on probably the most difficult manual transmission to be found in a passenger vehicle. It’s not impossible. I do it all the time. It’s just not a “punch it” kind of experience. I’m hoping that his curiosity with the gear box and his fascination with the convertible and doorless experience will be enough.

I’m sure that it’ll be pretty soon that he’ll want to go off roading and see how the suspension works over boulders. And he’ll want to see first-hand why reducing tire pressure helps gain traction in sand. And so we’ll teach him how to do these things safely.

And that’s all we can ever do. Teach our kids. We give them the tools, and we teach them how to use them, but whether or not they ever pick them up and use them on their own is entirely up to them.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve never judged another parent. Who hasn’t? We’ve all thought, “What a brat. She should…” I’m trying to be less so.

We can’t control our kids. Any belief that we can is an illusion.

I’ve always tried to let mine be independent. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes they aren’t ready, sometimes I’m not ready. But even when we manage to get it right between us, “they” weigh in.

“Has Zach been wearing his retainers? Has Zach been doing his PT? Has Zach been doing his homework?”

I could answer, but why should I? He’s sitting right beside me. He’s 16. They’re his teeth. His bones. His grades. And he’s old enough to take responsibility. But when I’ve said this to people, they say things like, “Well yes, he’s 16 but you know how much they still need their moms!”

Umm no, they don’t need their moms to nag them. The directions aren’t difficult. They understand. They simply learn to rely on mom.

You can read a zillion articles that blame us parents for coddling our kids and making them dependent on us.

I know I’m doing the right thing. I just wish the judgment didn’t come from both sides.

Damned if you do or don’t.

Parents these days.


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