I literally taught my children, as part of their driving lessons, not to swerve for an animal in the road. Now, hold on. Before you get upset, let me explain.
Here in Connecticut, our roads are narrow. In most places, at least where we live and drive, there are also no shoulders, no place for a car to go should it swerve to avoid an animal. I didn’t want one of my teen drivers to swerve for a toad, bird, or even a cat and hit a tree or end up driving off the road into some wooded area where they wouldn’t be found easily or before they froze to death.
Taking it a bit further, on back roads around here, it is typical to drive a bit toward the center line because it is very difficult to see pedestrians, joggers or bicyclists on the roads due to hills and curves; and there are few sidewalks for walkers.
I did take the time to teach every one of my children how to brake quickly. I taught them to brake in the rain, the snow, and on dry pavement. Because my car has performance anti-lock brakes, it is safe to slam on the brakes under most road conditions, except for snow or ice, and then they better be driving very slowly in Winter Mode.
This mentality translates to life as well. Driving home from the market after picking my youngest up from jazz band practice, a small bird flew in front of my car. I didn’t even slow. I know this sounds horrible, but I am an “Oh, shit!” reactor to most emergency driving situations. I have trained myself not to react unless something or someone is in the road that I need to truly avoid. When I do react, I slam on the brakes. I refuse to kill myself and any of my children trying to save a bird.
Then I thought about the last few weeks, months and years of my life. I have slammed on the brakes many times, but I have refused to swerve. When someone confronted me with an idea, demand, belief or condition that I knew deep down in my heart was wrong, I refused to swerve.
At first I would react, a LOT! This was years ago when I first separated from my husband and felt so lost. I was so raw that I reacted to almost everything. I hid myself away to protect me and everyone else around me from the fallout of those reactions. I knew that if I swerved, there would be collateral damage.
Over the past year, I have found myself calmer than I have ever been in my entire life. I react a lot less than previously, though there are a few triggers that get me going really fast.
My children have seen this transformation. I am not sure each of them has processed what this means completely, but I do know that it has made a huge difference in relationships, and in how they are facing their worlds head on, refusing to swerve.
When I see my daughter being bullied by family or friends, I try to come up beside her and tell her to stand her ground, to not swerve from the path that she has set for herself. I might not always agree with everything my adult children do, but I respect their strength in choosing paths and following them.
It is okay to slam on the brakes sometimes, but I hope my children continue to hold steady, that they refuse to give up when difficulties, hardships and ideological challenges jump in their way. I taught my children NOT to swerve.