I remember spending a great deal of time in the car driving the girls to various activities. I never understood why being in the car would bring out the worst behavior in the girls. Having everyone buckled into a tight space and sometimes touching each other was the real problem. One day, I was not able to concentrate on driving on the four-lane city road because of what was going on in the back seat. While I was looking into my rear-view mirror, I hit the car in front of me. He had decided to stop at a red light. It was just a bumper-to-bumper thing, so there was no damage, but of course, my angel child, Ashley, reported the incident to my husband at the supper table.
I quickly explained the situation, “I had to look in the mirror because someone was crying, someone else was hitting them, and someone else was yelling. And just then the car in front of me stopped, and I didn’t see it. So I have decided that I need to concentrate on driving, and you girls have to be better riders, starting tomorrow.”
I knew we had been lucky it wasn’t more serious. It was distracted driving, even before cell phones! Dan shared his concern, “Great idea, I can’t wait to hear how things change tomorrow.”
I was ready with a plan and the very next day, a similar moment arose in the back seat. Without hesitation, I took an immediate right and then parked. I turned around and addressed the girls. “Remember yesterday when Mommy bumped that car? I did it because you were not being good riders and I took my eyes off the road in front of me to deal with you. I can’t do that anymore; it is not safe.”
They all looked scared, but I continued to explain. “From now on, when you misbehave in the car I am going to do what I did today. I am going to pull over and stop. But next time, whoever is causing the trouble is going to get a time out on the curb. Does anyone need a time-out now?”
They all shook their heads and agreed they could be good. And for the rest of that trip they were. But later in the day, they forgot and once again someone was distracting me. As soon as I felt my eyes going to the rear-view mirror and I took the next right, pulled over to the curb, and parked. I got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the back door of the minivan. I unbuckled Lindsey from her car seat. She was so scared because she wasn’t sure what was going to happen. She yelled, “I’ll be good!”
I didn’t say anything as I set her on the curb. I sat on the edge of the van with the door open right next to her. The other two yelled, “Don’t leave her!” Seriously, where do kids get these ideas? After just a minute, I asked Lindsey if she was ready to behave. She quickly nodded as I put her back into her car seat.
This turned out to be a great solution, because sometimes, I needed time to cool off, too. The whining and crying from the backseat could be so distracting. It was good to remind myself to focus on my driving. As a matter of fact, one really stressful day, I pulled over, parked the car, got out walked over to the curb and sat down. I needed a time out! I could hear the girls crying, so I only sat on the curb for a minute. As I got back into the car I said, “Mommy needed a time out. She wasn’t being good.”
The last time I needed to do this was with Ashley, who was deathly afraid of dogs. Without realizing it, I had pulled over right next to a fence with a dog just on the other side. Just as I was about to set her on the curb, the dog started barking. You could even see his little nose through the fence. Ashley was totally freaked out. I didn’t even release my hands from her shoulders, even though if you ask her she says I left her there forever. I hugged her and put her back into her car seat. She decided she would NEVER cause me to stop again. She would even remind her sisters when they would start to misbehave, “You don’t want Mommy to stop do you?”
From then on, all it would take would be for me to slow down, or take a quick right turn, and they would pipe up. “Mommy, I’ll be good.”
I was lucky my wake-up call was just a bumper bump. I am glad I heard this message loud and clear, “Distracted driving, no matter what the cause, is dangerous, especially with your most precious cargo — your children — in the car.”