Posted by: Jamie Stamm | July 8, 2008

Bad decisions

When I was little, my grandfather used to put me in his lap and let me steer his car down the alley behind his house while he worked the gas and brakes. As a kid, I thought it was an awesome experience, but now, as a parent, the thought of my dad plopping Cera or Anthony in his lap and allowing them to navigate his car anywhere – whether down an alley way or in an open field – flat out horrifies me.

So this evening, as I dropped off my 5-year-old daughter at gymnastics, I was floored to see a minivan pull into the parking space beside us with one of Cera’s classmates behind the wheel, seated on the lap of her beaming father.

What was this dad thinking?!?!?

This was a parking lot at a facility that caters to kids. Cars back out unexpectedly. Children dart out from behind vehicles. Not to mention that a 5-year-old could easily jerk the steering wheel, crashing into the parked cars to her left or to her right.

So, as an observer, what do you do?

Do you call the police? Do you question the parent? Or do you avoid confrontation – like I did tonight – and then spend the next several hours mentally kicking yourself for doing nothing?

I know that not everyone has the same beliefs as me when it comes to parenting. I’m sure there are people who look down on me for letting my kids stay up late in the same way that I look down at parents who smack their children in the middle of Wal-Mart for “acting up.”

But there are certain standards that we should all be able to agree with. Like the fact that driving a car is a dangerous activity for a young child, no matter how careful a parent thinks he’s being by taking charge of the foot pedals.

So, do I think my Pop-Pop was a bad grandfather because he let me steer his car?

No.

But do I think that he made a bad decision?

Absolutely.

And I think I made a bad decision tonight, too.

I can only hope that the look of horror that that father saw on my face was enough to make him think about his actions – and that that little girl isn’t behind the wheel of a car again for at least 10 years.

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