This week my husband and I had a ripe opportunity to do something right; to give a gift to our teenager. You see, I have this used Toyota at our house that is one week old because we just purchased it. Over the Easter weekend while Howard and I were out our daughter, home from college, called and asked if she could drive it to do an errand.
To really understand how tricky this was going to be for her you’d have to see the driveway…a steep grade, angling up toward the road, first crossing a sidewalk where people walk their dogs and, um, there is also a brick mailbox to the side. Think, STEEP. Think, driving your car backward but going UP and the angle is GEOMETRIC. Use your imagination.
After giving her permission to use the car soon Howard’s phone rang again. Hearing his end of the conversation my heart sank just a little.
To the credit of this darling young lady she called to “make a confession” to tell us she had scraped the mailbox and scraped the car. Knowing her I knew she felt terrible, especially knowing the Toyota was “new”, to our family at least. So, home Howard and I went, meeting her by the car and together inspecting the damage and getting the lowdown of her efforts to back it up that darn driveway. He and I had decided that she would pay for damages to the car and the mailbox and we explained to her how insurance works in these situations. She was almost relieved to hear how she could take responsibility and help make things right.
It was an accident. It happens, but she is ok, and we are very glad about that. No one had been on the sidewalk or behind the car.
Howard coached her on the technique of backing a car up such a monster of an angle and then told a few stories of accidents he had had when he was younger…like driving a pick-up truck into an irrigation ditch. And once I backed our family’s camper smack into a pine tree. I almost saw her give a big sigh of relief. Conversation done; decisions made.
The accident in the driveway actually had provided an opportunity to give our gift. Later that night during a different conversation on a different topic she turned to us and said, “Mom and Dad, thank you so much for not shaming me for scraping the car and damaging the mailbox. You didn’t make me feel ashamed. I was so worried before you came home. Thank you.”
That was our gift. No, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, or “You’re a lousy driver.” No condescension. Just grace.