Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Driving Mr. Ryan

I’m generally a pretty good driver. My years of living and commuting in the Boston area forced me to become a more assertive (if not necessarily aggressive) driver, not to mention learning to parallel park and “bang a U-ie” pretty much anywhere. I can creep into the tiniest break in traffic, I can jump a light to make a left-hand turn, I can get myself across four lanes of highway within a quarter-mile when necessary. But I find that when I have Ryan in the car, my driving style changes completely.

I suspect it’s a universal parent thing, to switch into “parent driving mode” when there’s a little one in the car. I recall my dad’s driving when I was a fairly young child, and hearing him censor himself as he drove. Not that I ever heard my dad swear under any circumstances, but in the car he had a habit, whenever someone cut him off or tailgated him or did other irritating or dangerous behaviors, of muttering under his breath, “Youuuuuu……turkey.” As an adult, I realize that something other than the word “turkey” was in his mind, but he was aware of little pitchers with big ears riding in the back seat and naturally revised his interjection.

I don’t often swear at other drivers, although I’ve been known to mutter an irritated phrase or two at someone who is driving like either a maniac or an idiot, according to George Carlin’s definition: “Anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac and anyone who drives slower is an idiot.” But it’s really my actual style of driving rather than my language that I tend to clean up when Ryan’s in the car. I don’t speed, I don’t tailgate, I pick much larger breaks in traffic to jump into, and I don’t cruise across multiple lanes of traffic. I’m very aware of the delicate burden in the backseat, and I’m careful not to do anything that might harm him. I’m much more careful of his safety than I am of my own.

I guess it’s a good reminder for me to be more careful of my own safety, as well. After all, this little life is dependent on mine. My responsibility when I was single was only to myself, when I got married it was also to my husband, and now that I’m a mom it’s first and foremost to my son. So I intend on being a much more careful driver even when Ryan’s not in the car. After all, even when my precious burden isn’t with me, his precious mother always is.

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