No parent in Wake County could possibly have watched the coverage of the past two weeks where teenagers were involved in fatal crashes and not shed at least one tear.
Reading the headlines each morning felt like a gut punch thinking about young lives with so much potential unfulfilled. Next, my mind leaped to the parents who are experiencing an unimaginable tragedy that should never happen.
Children should never die before their parents.
For me, the stories are poignant because my older daughter will be getting her permit in January. I’ve heard from other parents of older children who have told me: At first you will hold your breath every time she gets behind the wheel of the car. You will stay up late on a weekend in order to hear her key turn in the door. You will demand that she lets you know when she gets somewhere safely and when she is leaving.
Now, after witnessing such loss, I wonder if I will do these things forever. Will I ever stop worrying? Does any parent ever stop worrying about his or her child driving?
So, I’ve been thinking about what I want to tell my daughter about driving. I’ve been composing this letter in my head. It will be placed in a photo album full of articles about traffic accidents involving young people. It’s something a parent who lost a child told me about years ago – collecting these articles and showing them to your new driver, not to scare them, but to show them the immense responsibility they are about to take on – their lives and the lives of others.
To my daughter,
First, I want to let you know that I love you and I trust you. I know you are going to be a good driver, a responsible driver. But I also want you to understand that the decisions you make behind the wheel can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of others.
I want you to always be cautious. Don’t let your fear of being late ever force you to make a bad choice behind the wheel that could put you or anyone else in danger. Saving a few seconds is never worth pulling out in traffic when you’re not sure if you can make it safely.
Don’t let other people or other things (like your cellphone) distract you when you are on the road. As a new driver, it will be tempting to think you have it all under control, that you can handle the radio blasting, your friends talking and your text messages vibrating in the cup holder, but you can’t handle these distractions. It takes years of experience to master driving, and even when you do master it one second of inattention can lead to tragedy.
I tell you this not to scare you, but because I love you and I never want anything bad to happen to you or your friends. And lastly, if you are ever in a situation where you can’t drive or one of your friends can’t drive, CALL ME. This is my promise to you — I will pick you up anywhere, anytime, no questions asked, no judgment.
I know I can’t protect you from everything, but I hope my words will guide you as you take on one of the greatest joys in life — freedom.
Love Always, Mom
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.