Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mirror, Mirror in the Backseat...

No, don't fret; this will not be another post about my wrinkles (although I continue to perseverate on it on my own time, because--something new to obsess over? I'm in!)

When I was a little girl, I used to hate getting in the car with my dad. Don't get me wrong, I adore my dad. I've pretty much been a daddy's girl my whole life. He's always been kind and generous and doting in my eyes. He is a gentleman's gentleman. Except in the car. When driving, Dad loses that gentlemanly veneer and let's the angrymonster out. No other driver on the road should have ever been given a license. Taking a right turn in front of him? You're taking it too slow (this one is HUGE). Driving too fast? You're an idiot. Driving too slow? Get off the road.

My dad is actually a really good driver; very conscientious of other drivers, lets people in front of him if they have a directional on (but PLEASE, remember to give a little 'thank you' wave, for the loveofgod!), and I really believe he tries to drive in a way that makes life easier for the people in front of and behind him. But he doesn't suffer fools on the road. And if someone around him is driving in a way that he wouldn't, he lets his displeasure be known. Unfortunately, he lets it be known to the people in HIS car, not the people who are actually offending his sense of good driving.

As a little girl, I remember dreading car drives. For some upsidedownbackwards reason, I felt a lot of anxiety over my dad's displeasure with other drivers. Perhaps it was because it was the only time in my daily life I ever heard that tone of voice come from my dad. Perhaps it was because I didn't get what the big deal was--we were still going to get where we were going, even if the guy in front of us took that turn at a snail's pace. But I felt like I had to say, "It's not a big deal, dad," or "Maybe they aren't (or are, as the case may be) in a hurry." I just remember being constantly rattled by the anger that seemed to emerge from my dad when he was behind the wheel of the car, since it never showed itself, thankfully, anywhere else in our lives and was never, ever directed at me.

You know what they say about how we pick up our parents' worst traits and habits? Yeah.

Last night, as we were driving to the preschool parent committee meeting at Ethan's school, a driver cut us off to get to the approaching exit ramp. I had to slam on my brakes and in a tone that was less than puppy dogs and sunshine gave the driver a piece of my mind.

From the backseat, I heard Ethan say, "Why are you always so mean when you drive? It scares me."

Oh, that's right. I scare my kid when I drive. Because I'm mean to other drivers. I suck. Capital S, capital U, capital C, capital K. All those years of having my stomach in knots because I had to listen to my dad berate every other driver on the road, and what do I do? Good times.

I tried to formulate an explanation in my head that would make sense; that sometimes mommy needs to yell at other drivers because they're bad drivers or they scared me by doing something they shouldn't have. But, really? There's no explanation that would make sense to him, or that makes it okay. I yell when I drive, and that scares him. Period. In his eyes, it makes me look like a mean person. Period.

This, interweb people, was a hard pill to swallow. Bless his little 3 year old heart for having the guts to speak up, because when I was a little girl, I sure as hell didn't. But talk about seeing your own fears and anxieties from your childhood reflected back through your child. And knowing that your actions, the exact same actions that freaked you out as a little kid, are responsible for that? Wellllll, that is a big giant pile of suck. And it was a huge wake up call for me.

This morning, on the drive to preschool, I found myself opening my mouth to share some choice thoughts about the driving habits of my fellow drivers. But instead I took some deep breaths, closed my mouth and kept driving. It wasn't until I tried stopping the behavior that I realized how much I do it. I will be doing a WHOLE lot of deep breathing behind the wheel for awhile, I'm guessing. But fine, oxygen is good for me, right? No price to pay at all to ensure that I am not the mean driver who scares her child.


Becca said...

Charlie said to me once "Don't talk to the other cars!" Awesome. I found getting an SUV made me slow down and drive more like a UPS truck than a race car and now I'm a lot more mellow. I can usually keep it to an annoyed "DUDE!"

Sarah said...

I honked at someone who cut me off the other day, and Harry asked pleasantly, "Are you going to say the bad word now, Mommy?" Klassy.

Monica said...

you are not alone, trust me. I mutter expletives quietly under my breath so the cherubs don't hear me. I like to beep the horn too, but my horn is at an inconvenient place and by the time I find it to push it the moment has already passed and then I'm mad that I didn't get to beep at them.