I’ve had a sick kid all week, so no new original posts from me. Luckily my friend Maggie stepped in to write this gem.
Before I had Sam, my driving habits could best be described as being of the “bat out of hell” variety. My mind tends to wander when I drive and when I come back to reality sometimes I’ve missed a few things along the way. Add in the distraction of technology, the radio and pretty scenery (which is everywhere in Austin) and you have a recipe for disaster.
When I was a teenager, my father was killed in a car crash. Another teen was wasted out of his mind and wrecked into my dad who was coming home after a business trip. His death was a tragedy which defines my existence.
Under normal rules of logic, you might assume that losing a parent in that way made me a cautious or fearful driver. Quite the opposite occurred, however. My dad was abiding by all the traffic laws, was an extremely careful driver, and he still died at the wheel.
It all made me throw caution to the wind.
The first time I ever drove with my new baby in the car, though, I shifted out of my “just get there, whatever it takes” mentality. Imagine a giant gray slug trying to maneuver through busy urban traffic. People honked. I got the finger, more than once. I didn’t care. Didn’t they know I was carrying precious, precious cargo?
My new persona behind the wheel surprised everyone who knew me and annoyed more than a few of them. Because, oddly enough, I didn’t just slow down and drive carefully when my new baby was in the car with me. I also drove with more care when I was alone. Or out with friends. I started fussing at cab drivers who stopped abruptly or didn’t signal their turns.
“I don’t even know who you are anymore,” my oldest sister Jane said on the way home from the airport the first time she came to visit her nephew. “You drive like a grandmother on the way to her own funeral.”
Truth is, I didn’t know who I was anymore, either. And it wasn’t just about the driving. Motherhood had so profoundly transformed my worldview that I felt like a caterpillar who’d emerged from a cocoon. Nothing around me had changed. Yet, everything inside of me had.
So, if you find yourself driving behind a thirtysomething woman in a white Honda Accord traveling vastly slower than you think she should be driving, be patient, please. Whether or not her son’s in the car with her, she knows now that she’s carrying precious cargo.
Guest blogger Maggie Carlton is a journalist and author of three books. Her most recent book, Wired Differently But Bound Together : Marriage and Asperger’s Syndrome, was published in 2014. She teaches writing at various schools in the Central Texas area and conducts workshops for adults. She lives in Austin, Texas with her son, Sam.