February 4, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
A couple of weeks ago my husband got a speeding ticket, the first driving infraction for either of us since we’ve both gotten our driver’s licenses. I wasn’t in the car but the rest of the family was, and Four and Two watched with great interest as the police officer pulled my husband over, talked to him, and issued him the ticket. Four, especially, found the entire transaction fascinating; a police officer had visited her class in school several months earlier and talked to the children about stranger danger and other important issues.
The next time I was driving Four to school, she asked me why the police man had issued the ticket.
“Because Papa was driving faster than the speed limit,” I replied, anticipating the next question and searching the road for the answer.
“What’s a speed limit?” she asked with great interest.
I pointed out a sign. “Do you see that?”
“What does it say?”
“Speed limit four five,” she read.
“That’s right,” I answered. “The speed limit is 45. That means I’m supposed to drive at forty-five, and if I drive faster than that the police man will catch me.”
I knew she’s too young to comprehend the “miles per hour” addition to the speed limit, but I also knew that fact is small compared to the rest of what we were discussing.
“Why do you have to drive at forty-five?”
“Because that’s the speed where everyone will stay safe. If we drive faster than that, then someone could have an accident.”
She absorbed this information in typical Four fashion and didn’t say anything else about it that day. It didn’t surprise me, however, when a few days she brought the issue up again.
On another morning when I was driving her to school, we approached a school zone during school hours and I slowed down. Once again Four brought up the question of speed, asking why I’d slowed down. I explained that when we drive through school zones at school hours, we have to slow down even more to make sure we keep the zone safe for kids.
Within a few minutes of entering the school zone, a Ford truck came zooming past us at a speed well above the limit. It zipped past us in that impatient morning rush to get where the driver needed to go without a thought to the current location.
“That’s okay, Mom, you keep driving slow,” Four instructed me, the reassurance in her voice that I was doing exactly the right thing.
I couldn’t help smiling, grateful that she’d absorbed this lesson at an early age. I know enough about Four’s personality now to know that once she and I have hashed out the particulars of a situation, she’ll hold the moral close to her heart and quote it in the future with that confidence that only children under 7 show.
But then, there are countless studies that preach the importance of those first seven years in a child’s life. My theory is this: if I can give Four and Two a brick load of life lessons by the time they each reach 7, they’ll have a strong enough foundation upon which to build the rest of their lives. And some people might argue it’s too early to give Four the tools she’ll need to be a safe driver, but if she can learn her speech and eating habits from me then why not the right driving habits? I’ve often said I’d rather be five minutes late to my destination than have some sort of drastic occurrence and not be able to get there at all.
I’m continuously amazed by how quickly Four and Two observe and learn from those observations, and it provides me with a recurring reminder to be the best self I can be.