Hopes for Parenting in a Fast Moving World Part 1

(alternate working title: How to Slow Down and Stop Being a Jerk)

From time to time I almost have myself convinced that I’m all grown up. On those occasions, I’m doing grown-up type things like voting for a prime minister, having difficult conversations with my boss**, or re-re-reading the bedtime stories my son prefers (rather than modern masterpieces like Benny and the Binky).

In fact, I am so mature now that I can even spend an hour at the supermarket without sneaking something into the shopping cart and/or whining until my wife lets me buy the sugary cereal.

And then despite the ever-thickening eyebrow and my wizened demeanour, something magically-youth-giving happens, and all of this maturity and equanimity just sort of floats away. I cease to be the mild-mannered, quick-to-smile man that I strive so hard to be…

I get behind the wheel and

<sing this line:> Duh, du, la, duh

I transform into…

Driving Man

I am not proud of this.

Poster of "Driving Man" a blog about sending mixed signals and telling people what we really need

After all, Driving Man has about as much maturity as Caiou and all the dignity of, oh boy, I’ll let you fill in the blank on that one. I had a certain former Toronto mayor in mind but I don’t like to mix politics with blogging.

Anyhow, you get the point: Driving Man is slightly less sympathetic than the velocoraptor in Jurrasic Park.

(I think I stole that joke from somewhere, but I’m not sure from where – sorry.)

So, given Driving Man’s limitless-impatience and timeless-immaturity (funny how those two seem to go hand-in-hand), you will not be surprised that he did not like it when Pedestrian Crossing Lights started popping-up all over his daily commute-route.

He did not like pedestrian crossing lights.

He did not like them, one little bit. In fact, he was offended by them.

The very fact that there were now 3 more things that existed, to his way of thinking, simply to slow down his daily commute, that offended him.

Oh, Driving Man! Poor, poor, grumpy Driving Man!

And then something happened that jiu-jitsued Driving Man’s attitude from impatient into mindfully-present, from “Get out of my way!” to “Ok, little buddies, take all the time you need.”

The thing that happened was this:

A little kid walked up and looked both ways.

Then he sheepishly hit the crossing lights button.

And then he waited for the drivers to stop their thundering metal death traps (Civics, Rangers, Malibus, Smartcars, etc).

And then he looked both ways, again.

And then he hit the button one more time, just, I suppose, for good measure.

And then he hustled to the median.

And then he hit the second crosswalk button.

And then…

Heck, Driving Man cannot report what the child did next, because by that point, the pedestrian light in front of Driving Man had stopped flashing and he was hurtling, once again, towards the next stop light.

And yet the beauty of this child’s deliberate actions did strike Driving Man as he was racing off, and it’s struck him several times since:

“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” thinks Driving Man “It is very, very cool that the boy knew how to give all of us racing adults the signal they needed to stop and to let him cross safely.”

And that made Driving Man think then, and he’s often thought since:

Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be awesome? 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time we were in an un-safe-feeling situation we knew exactly what signal to give?

Imagine if there were some set of agreed upon verbal practices, physical codes, and emotional regulations – just like pedestrian crossing lights – that we could reliably follow to tell the important people in our lives, “Hey, I need some help, here.”

And, wouldn’t it be even better, if upon noticing the flashing lights they actually did the thing we requested?

Imagine if every time you cried in sorrow, or yelled in frustration, or posted something embarrassing on facebook, that everyone who heard or saw your signal knew what you needed them to do in response to make it ok.

And then they did what you needed 99% of the time

Imagine that!

But, of course, us human beings just aren’t built that way, now are we?

We are not simple! No, no, no! And, unlike that boy and the pedestrian crossing light, we give mixed signals.

  • Sometimes we smile when we’re sad, or
  • We yell angrily when we are hurting inside;
  • Sometimes we ask for help though we can clearly be independent;
  • Sometimes people offer the help we need, and we decline it.

We just aren’t built to be easy-reads, us humans.

We’re built to be contradictory, and baffling, and hard to read.

Particularly when our emotions are involved (and our emotions are always involved),

There is no simple, 99% clear signal.

And when there is a clear signal, there is no nearly-perfect response.

…or is there?


I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with some thoughts on this.

After all, if an unknown child can make Driving Man (he of little patience) grateful for a slower and less efficient commute…

…well, then anything is possible.


**(personal note from Carolyn: Lindsey’s boss here. For the record, any and all difficult conversations have been resolved successfully…and I would maintain…not that difficult.  🙂  Just sayin’

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