Dear Mum Driving the Minivan:
This morning your car came within inches of my front bumper. When I tapped my horn, thinking you hadn’t noticed my car being within a sneeze distance from yours, you flipped me off and hit the accelerator. I was taking my kids to school, and I’m assuming that you were doing the same thing.
You’re probably thinking that I’m writing to chew you out and criticise your driving. You’re thinking I’m mad about the near miss and still fuming over you sticking your finger up at em. That actually did make my blood boil. Not so much because I’m a prude, or have never flipped someone off myself, but because my kids were in the car. And I had to explain to them what a middle finger in a rear view mirror meant. By the way, when they asked, I told them that it meant “hello.”
I’m actually not writing to chew you out at all. And no, I’m not mad about the near miss. But you were going so fast — at eight in the morning, no less — that I couldn’t help but take note.
See, I’ve been you. I’ve been a frazzled, harried, over-scheduled mum who was determined to get everyone where they had to go on time. I’ve squeezed too much into my day thinking, not that I was superwoman, but that I had to be superwoman. There was no other option in my mind. Part of my job as a mum, I thought, was to check all the boxes of perfection. I had to get mummying right. And that meant me driving like a bat out of hell to get my kids, and myself, everywhere we needed to go. But what I failed to notice was that I was the one who had decided that it was necessary to live our life on a treadmill. It wasn’t, but in my head it was. And so I rushed around, drove like crazy, and flipped off a lot of drivers along the way.
And then I had a car accident. It was my fault, by the way — and my son was in the car with me. My car was nearly totalled. We were not injured, thankfully. But the experience of me being so frazzled and rushed that I didn’t notice a stoplight had turned from red to green — I actually didn’t notice the light at all — got me thinking about where my head was. It got me thinking about the stress level I was carrying around, because of my own impossible expectations.
Four cars were involved in the accident. An elderly lady had to be taken to the hospital and my son had nightmares for weeks. So did I. I replayed the situation over and over again knowing I could have never have lived with myself if my rushing around had led to my own child being hurt.
And so you know what I did? I stopped rushing. I stopped over-scheduling. I stopped expecting myself to get my family across town and from class to class, or party to party, with no time to spare. What that means is that now we’re sometimes late. And it means I now decline certain birthday party invitations for my kids that had me basically needing to clone myself to get everyone where they need to go. And it means sometimes I don’t get that errand done that I had decided had to get done on a certain day. In all areas of my life, I took myself off the fast track. I stopped trying to get everything so right and stopped expecting myself to have superhuman superpowers. And for the first time as a mum, I exhaled.
I’m writing to tell you that while you cut me off and nearly missed hitting my car, you’re not always going to be so lucky. Someday you may hurt yourself, another driver, or worse yet, your own children. And then there will be no amount of perfection that you have achieved that will undo the damage of causing harm to your own child. Trust me, I know. I nearly harmed my own.
So I’m not just saying slow down on the road, I’m saying slow your life down. If your mornings are so stressful that you have to drive like a lunatic, then change your mornings. Don’t make your kids the perfect lunch, or if you must, pack their lunch the night before. Maybe simplify breakfast or sacrifice your daughter’s elaborate hairstyle so you can leave the house a little earlier.
Because if that’s how you drive every day, you’re going to eventually hit the car instead of nearly miss it. And it won’t have mattered how much you squeezed into your morning before you left the house that morning.
And if you’re not rushed and you’re just a bad driver, cool it. I’ve got precious cargo in my car and I’m trying to do a good job for them by keeping them safe. And ease off the middle fingers, please. Or next time you come that close to my car, I may be forced to say hello back.
Have a great day,
The Lady Whose Car You Almost Hit
How to slow down in the mornings: