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A Kid’s View from the Backseat

A Kid’s View from the Backseat

“Dang…they’re fighting again. She’s giving him that look. His jaw is tensing up and I see those little places on the ends of his jaw popping up and down again. They stopped talking and she’s staring out the window again, like she’s far off somewhere. He’s cussing under his breath at the other drivers. What did she just say to him?? The space between the seats seems massive. My parents don’t like each other very much.  I think I’ll emerge myself in this video game.”

I had the opportunity to sit in the backseat of a car with young ones while their parents were driving. I found the view astounding.

Body language speaks loud and clear and children experience plenty in tow as parents, understandably so, may very well be clueless as to what their children have a front row view of. It’s all on display, mom and dad, and you are the main characters.

What are they seeing? How do you come across to one another? Is there tenderness and patience displayed? Or do they see attempts to control, overreact, or spew out sarcastic remarks? They are watching.

I remember being a kid in the back seat of my dad’s Chevy Impala. We’d set out on an adventure for a trip to the shore, a swimming lake, a relative’s home, or the local little league ball game. Excited to go anywhere (my mom did not drive), often the journey turned into a road rage experience within our four doors. I won’t belabor this with details, but my kid brain learned how to escape the bitterness between mom and dad at a young age and keep the memories safely stored away. Needless to say, I don’t do conflict healthfully.

I didn’t bother to look up statistics on how many hours per day kids spend in transit, but I’ll bet it’s a whole lot more than when I was a kid. And though much of that time may very well be spent with one parent, it would go well with your littles if the times spent with both of you in the front seat were thoughtful, intentional, and prayerful. These are the times they are literally watching in full view how you treat one another. What an opportunity for a grace teaching moment! Imagine if they saw you forgiving one another, encouraging one another, being patient in Route 40 traffic with one another! Please ask God to give you vision for the life lessons taught in this small space with their increasingly big minds!

What if you were to hold hands more? (Yes, he/she can drive one-handed for a time) What if you made car trips a life lesson in walking through conflict, praying through decisions, and not having to be right or have the last word? What if your road trips were actually fun??

All my kids are grown and how I regret what they must have seen one too many times.  I don’t know why I never considered what our conflict looked like to them. I never realized how viewing the backs of our heads could be so telling! Repeating “I wish I could do it all over again!” is not exactly helpful at this stage. But if you’re a young/somewhat young parent with impressionable kids in the backseat, maybe this for you.

I never want to come across in a condemning manner. Only to ask you to be mindful of your offspring’s perceptions and what they will take away into adulthood and in their own marriages someday. What do you want them to know about their parents, but more importantly, about how the gospel of Christ motivates mother’s and father’s influence to love? Will they see your tenacity to stay strong in love even when the temptation to snap back or fade into avoidance is ever so tempting? Or will they see you lose it time after time as the space between you and your kids’ other parent become alarmingly vast?

I know it’s hard. The flesh is weak. You will at times fail. Apologies are cathartic and forgiveness is cleansing. Maybe let the emotional developments of your children become your motivation. Or just let Love rule rather than your strong will.

You can do this. I know you can.

Jesus, take the wheel.

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Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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