My trip home from the airport was going fine, but then I noticed something up ahead. They were everywhere. Red taillights.
Even though we were crawling along, some drivers enjoyed tailgating. What were they thinking? Did they actually think they could push me forward? I couldn’t have gone faster if I would have wanted to. Where was I going to go?
Some of these same drivers switched lanes every chance they got. I admit to smiling when I passed them later, having just stayed in the center lane. Looking ahead, how did they think changing lanes would help?
They may not have done much for themselves, but they did something for me and probably for others. They increased my stress. They forced me to be alert to who was behind me and to what was going on in front of me.
I left space between me and the car ahead. Inching forward was then possible if I thought the driver’s impatience behind me might result in an accident. I assume the driver in front of me appreciated having that cushion. He or she had room to maneuver and less to worry about.
While driving, I thought about parents who push their children. This often creates the same stress I was feeling. Do these children wish they could get out of the way? Do they wish there was more space between them and their parents? Do they feel inadequate? Like they’re letting their parents down? Imperfect?
Parents in a hurry to raise their children aren’t doing them any favors. They want them ready to sleep through the night, ready to read, ready to play team sports, ready to not need a babysitter, ready to drive, ….
Kids benefit when we recognize stages develop as ages do – naturally, when the child is ready.
At one point, some drivers exited to the right, heading for another major highway. One of the impatient drivers maneuvered between orange cones and made a sharp right onto a regular street. Before long, many drivers followed.
I see this behavior with parents, too. They look for a shorter and easier trip and may find things going well for a while. Chances are, though, that it won’t pay off in the long run. Being independent and going into unchartered areas isn’t worth it. And, following someone experimenting, as the other drivers did, may not turn out well.
I wonder if they turned onto a cul-de-sac or a dead end. What if they came out on a street with so much traffic that they couldn’t enter the flow well? Was the short cut worth it?
If you asked your children, would they say they’re feeling pushed unreasonably? Do they feel trapped because there’s actually nowhere to go?
Observe them with new eyes. Do you notice them looking for shortcuts? Have they ignored barriers and gone somewhere that might have been dangerous? Have they possibly learned these reactions to personal frustrations from you?
Talk with them. Apologize, if it’s appropriate. If you think they could be and should be moving faster, share your evidence and reasons. Listen to them. Are there legitimate reasons they feel safe in the center lane moving at a steady pace?
Lead with your knowledge and love rather than pushing with your dissatisfaction.