Recently my daughter has begun driving. And when she got her license, all kidding aside, I thought she was doing just fine. Speed control, check. Lane positioning, check. Turn indicator usage, check. Hey, when I was in the car with her, she seemed to be doing just fine. Better than fine even. So when she got her license, I let her go with a smile on my face, basking in the feeling of having done a fine job as a dad.
Then the phone rang.
The first time the phone rang, I handled it pretty well. The second time? Well, the second time, the phone didn’t ring. I just found the car parked in the driveway with the hood all munched and mangled. A hood, mind you, that was brand new, as a result of the repairs after the first call.
So what do we do? As dads, we want our children to know that we love them unconditionally. Additionally, most of us want them to not keep crunching cars. Not only are cars expensive, after all, to say nothing of insurance and repairs, but the more frequently our teen drivers are involved in accidents, the more their view of what it means to drive becomes colored by those events.
This is all on my mind, of course, because of the second crunch. What did I do? I’ll tell you what I did in the hops that it will be of benefit to others out there, who either have yet to experience the call or who have done so in the past and wished they had done it a little different.
Keep in mind, I did these things only after I knew that she was okay. Obviously, if your children are injured, everything else can wait. In this case, she was fine (physically) so these steps made some sense.
The firs thing that I did, when someone was finally home, was blow off steam. Not at my daughter, mind you, that would have made things worse. No, I blew off steam at my wife, at the other kids, at the cat, at my steering wheel, at friends I met a little later. . . basically at anyone except my daughter.
I needed to express the anger and frustration that I was feeling, but I needed to do it in a way that didn’t aggravate the damage that had already been done. After all, my daughter was feeling bad about crunching the car. She didn’t mean to do it, I knew that, getting angry at her would have made the situation worse. But if I bottled up the anger, it would be like shaking up a soda. It would go everywhere when I finally let the top off, which would be when I spoke with my daughter later on.
Assess the damage
When I got a good look at the car, I started to go through all the parts of the vehicle that were damaged. My wife phoned a friend of ours, and he came over and we started talking about possible solutions. By this time, My daughter was home, and while we didn’t talk about what happened or how it could have been avoided or any of the other things that normally go into that type of situation, we did include her in the discussion of fixing the damage. We started talking about options and challenges, and agreed that we would have to wait for a few days. After all, visiting a junk yard for spare parts shouldn’t be done at night, regardless of what you see Hugh Jackman doing in a movie.
For those in the military, this word holds a lot of meaning. For those not, let me explain what I mean. A debrief is a chance to sit down and go through a series of events and see if there is anything that we can learn from the experience that will ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again in the future.
We talked about being 100% present when we drive, about making sure that the most important thing is traveling safely. We talked about speed control and how deceptive speed can be. We talked about the hidden costs of driving and car ownership, and how this time she would be paying for the repairs pretty much on her own.
And we talked about it over JaMocha shakes from Arby’s. After all, when you’re hurting, you need something to take away the hurt.
We went to bed with things unresolved. This was perhaps the hardest part for me. I don’t like to leave things undone. I like to have things finished, if possible. I like to have a plan, something to guide me when I wake up the next day. But this time I just went to bed. I slept on it. And when I got up the next morning, we did a couple of things to ensure that the car could be driven until we could get the pieces to get it repaired.
I think the best part of the entire process was the debrief. Especially the part where I shared with her a time when I had a similar accident. I hope she realized by my doing so how important it is to be present when driving, to ensure that nothing gets in the way of the act of driving. Hopefully it also helped her figure out what she will need to know for the future, when I’m not able to be there, so that when she has to do it on her own, she can.
Well, that’s all for now. I gotta go to a Pick and Pull and find a hood for a 2001 Sebring.