Forcing a Dream can be Dangerous
A few days ago, my 16-year-old daughter wrote off my wife's car. She'd been driving for a grand total of five minutes. It was a small mistake on her part but a huge error for me.
A few hours earlier, Amy experienced the euphoria of passing her Learner Permit test and was positively bubbling, knowing a major milestone had been reached. I felt it too. Naturally, we took selfies.
For years, I'd looked forward to this day. At last, it was my turn to start the process my dad embarked on with me 40 years earlier – teaching my kid to drive.
Sitting nervously in the passenger seat on a rural dead-end road, Amy listened as I explained the basic controls. She watched as I demonstrated the starting and setting off procedures, and correctly echoed them back to me. After another run-through, we swapped seats.
Driving along at a snail's pace, she did everything correctly. I was proud of my little girl. I think I had tears in my eyes. This was a great moment in our relationship, and the significance wasn't lost on either us. I snapped a couple of quick photos of her ambling down the road at a cautious 30 km/h.
Approaching the local sports field, we slowed to about 15 km/h and pulled in towards the oval entrance.
“OK, brake. Amy, brake. Brake! Amy!!”
Time froze. My pulse exploded. “BRAKE!!”
In just two seconds, our dream moment was shattered, as we slammed head-on into a large boulder by the gate. She'd missed the brake pedal and buried her foot into the accelerator instead.
Both airbags exploded, the seatbelts ripped us back into our seats and the cabin filled with the powder and stench of explosive charges.
Shell-shocked and disoriented, we leapt from the car. Amy was instantly overcome with tears and inconsolable grief. We held each other and tried to process what had just happened. In one violent moment, one of our best days had become the worst.
I've now had a few days now to process what went wrong, and to cycle through the ‘if only's'. There are lots of them. I should have pulled the handbrake or knocked the transmission into neutral. Perhaps I could have wrestled the wheel from her to buy us a few seconds.
In the end, though, it came down to one huge mistake. I wanted to fulfil a personal dream despite a few glaring facts.
Naturally, Amy was keen to begin her journey straight away and that's normal. But I should have taken a lot more time to work with her on the basic controls. Or I should have insisted on a couple of lessons with an instructor (and the security of dual controls) before I got involved.
Sadly, I ignored these facts, and we both paid a terrible price for our eagerness.
On reflection, I realise something I've known for years. Forcing an outcome is usually an exercise in futility. The facts will always win, sometimes brutally.
Many times I've witnessed this kind of blinkered stubbornness and the outcomes it creates, yet I failed to carry the lesson through to that day with my little girl. My heart aches for what she went through and for the scars it created. But I can't turn back time, and I doubt I'll ever forget it.
So the lesson I'm still learning is this. Expecting the best is fine, but planning for the worst is essential. There are laws at play that cannot be broken, and the punishment for ignoring them is sometimes swift and violent.
I hope my little girl regains her confidence. I hope we can laugh about this one day. Most of all, I hope we both remember that everything has a cost, that every action spawns a reaction – either for good or bad.
Sometimes our dream, innocent and pure as it is, meets with resistance. On this particular occasion, it was a three-tonne rock. The trick is to remember this and plan our way around obstacles rather than smashing into them head-on.
Lesson learned, yet again.
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