When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to car shows. Actually, he still takes me to car shows when I see him; it’s our special bonding time. As a result, I love cars and when I talk to my dad on the phone, the miles between Texas and Indiana seem to shrink as we compare notes about the vehicles that have caught our attention lately.
A couple of weeks ago, I checked off a major bucket-list item when I was invited to test drive the Lamborghini Aventador S. Stand by while I drool over the hand-built engine and a motor sound that revs my internal motor. With a 740-horsepower engine, the car moves fast. Kind of like the way I was talking to another parent today about how our kids met in kindergarten a couple of years ago. It seems we somehow leapfrogged a chunk of time, because it feels like we're hurdling ahead at 200 miles an hour.
With an instructor in the car ahead of me, I strapped in and got ready to fly around the track. As I received his commands and tips from my in-helmet speaker, it occurred to me that driving a fancy sports car is a lot like parenting. For instance:
1) Decisions must be made at top speed. Life moves fast, so embrace it and be ready to corner with your wheels gripping the road firmly. Be confident about your position and trust the car. (The car is you, by the way, when you’re a parent.) Trust your intuition and your parenting instincts and know that no one else knows your child like you do. Take those curves with aplomb and no one will pass you. Or, at least, you won’t mind if they do, because you’re in your own lane anyway.
2) Squeeze the brake, don’t stomp on it. Is your first instinct to say no to a request from your child? Consider why he’s asking. Think about her perspective and how you might address it with kindness instead of parental authority alone. Remember what it was like to be a kid and want to explore and test and push. Gently push back, when appropriate, and avoid stomping on his curiosity and initiative.
3) Look to where you’re going up ahead and steer the car that direction. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked back to see where I have been instead of looking ahead, both literally on the road and figuratively, in the middle of a crossroads. When you’re driving, it’s critical that your eyes are looking at the point ahead to where you’re going around the corner. Gazing into the corner as you’re whipping around it doesn’t help you get out of the spin. Look up and find that point on the horizon to figure out where you're headed.
4) Keep your wheels on the ground. The thing is, you can’t jump over every pothole (and you REALLY shouldn’t do that in an expensive, low-to-the-ground car, either). You can’t take a leap and fly over every speed bump, Dukes-of-Hazzard style. Stay grounded and take the hurdles carefully, and you’ll be in better shape. When it comes to kids, they’re going to bring a whole lot of bumpy roads into your life, and you can take them together. Then you can embrace and enjoy the smooth straightaways in between the streets under construction.
You may never drive a Lamborghini; you may not care if you do. I may never get to drive one again, but these lessons will stick with me. They’re the ones my dad has been teaching me all along.