I have thought a lot about my first blog entry of 2011. I hoped it would be powerful. I hoped it would cause readers to really stop and think. I hoped it would leave an impression long after the reader left my site.
I actually had it narrowed down to three entries that I had waiting in the pipeline. Three stories that each had a convincing argument as to why IT should hold the coveted spot of the “Hands Free Mama 2011 Debut.”
But that was what I had planned. And if I have learned anything on this Hands Free journey, it is that the most meaningful messages come from the unplanned. The most earth-shattering revelations come when I simply let them.
On the evening that I was blessed with such a message, I was having “couch time.” If you have read my “Keys to Distraction” entry, then you will know that one component of Daily Distraction for me is not allowing enough time to simply slow down, sit down, and relax.
In this case, sitting in the comfortable coziness of our living room allowed me to take part in a conversation that impacted me so greatly that I knew it was meant to be shared.
I was talking to a father who has one child attending college and another child who recently graduated from college. Obviously, this father is much farther down the “parenting path” of raising children than myself. I have learned there is great value in listening to the wisdom and insight of parents who have been where I have not. For they have seen what I have not yet seen. They have answered the tough questions that I have not yet been asked. They have made hard choices, some with relief and some with regret, that I have not yet had to make.
And I feel that it is worth mentioning that this particular father has done all these things while preserving mutual respect, love, boundaries, grace, and forgiveness between himself and his children. I find that quite remarkable.
He and I were talking about my Hands Free venture. But what began in an easy conversational tone became a message stated with conviction.
This experienced parent sitting before me actually leaned forward from the cushions supporting his back and looked right into my eyes.
This man had something to say, and I knew it was time to listen and listen well.
His message was this: “Parents need to know that the eight year old son or daughter that watches mom or dad talk on their cell phone while driving becomes the sixteen year old that talks (and/or texts) on the phone while driving.”
Now at first glance you might wonder if that is it. You might be saying, “I already knew that.”
I know because I said the same thing to myself … at first. But then, whether I liked it or not, I gave it more thought and applied it to my life.
I thought about the ways my daughters emulate me through dress, speech, thoughts, and actions. My youngest is not called “Little Rachel” for nothing. Thankfully, all mimicking characteristics my daughters possess of me have been positive at this point. And because of my Hands Free mission, I have come accustomed to turning off all notifications on my phone and abstaining from its use when my children are in the car. The reason I do this is to allow conversation and connection to occur. But what this father said awakened me to a new perspective like a splash of cold water to my face. Being Hands Free is vital to building lines of communication with my child, but there is something far more critical here. Being Hands Free could actually save my child’s life. By modeling Hands Free driving to my child now may result in my future sixteen year old teenager choosing Hands Free driving.
This father had been there. He had watched his daughter go from tumbling down the backyard hill to tumbling gracefully on a collegiate mat. He watched his son go from flying by the seat of his pants to flying a single engine Piper Arrow. He watched his children go from age eight to age sixteen in the blink of an eye. And sure as the sun rises and sets, it will happen to me, too.
Although his plea was spoken to parents he had never met, this father spoke with the same raw emotion as if we were talking about his very own son or daughter. The message was clear to me, and it has resonated in my head and in my heart for days: My driving habits will affect my children's driving habits. Let it be the good ones, not the bad ones.
A few days ago, a newly Hands Free Dad pulled me aside and said this about my writing, “You know you get in people's heads, don't you?”
I am never sure which sentences that flow from my pen will be the ones that stick with people. I never know which phrase I type will be the one that brings profound change, as it did in my own life. But today, I pray this entry contains that kind of unforgettable message.
I pray it is the kind of message that subconsciously pops into your head when you prepare to transport your child and your phone beckons you at arm’s length. But maybe this time, a poignant line will come to mind. And for one split second, you will pause. And then instead of reaching to make a call or send a text, you will place your phone in your glove box.
Finally, you will glance in your rearview mirror and behold the bright eyes of your most precious gift, and you will see the future staring back.
And you will smile because it is a beautiful one. It is a beautiful future, in deed.
You will often hear me say that I am simply the messenger in this Hands Free journey. Today's entry is undoubtedly one of the most important ones I have been blessed to write. My faith tells me that this message is meant to be shared. With your help, it can be. Simply use the “share” button following the post and use any of the given mediums (Facebook, email, Twitter) to get the word out. Together we can save lives. I can't think of a better way to begin the New Year, can you?