Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kindergarten Pain

A post by Kelly Martin, MoDOT Community Relations Specialist

It’s what I’ve called “the kindergarten pain” for over 13 years. You know it, that sharp, gut wrenching pain you experience at many points in your life as a parent. The first one (and I hadn’t properly termed it at the time) happened on the first day I dropped my son off at daycare. It was just his first step toward independence, making decisions on his own. Would he share, would he care? I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

The second time, and when I termed the phrase, was of course the day he started kindergarten. He proudly placed his backpack in his cubby and took his seat, ready to take on the world. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out. One more step toward his independence.

The third time I remember this pain was the day he obtained his driver’s license, and I watched him pull away from the curb by himself. Although this time there was no one there to help him in my absence, no one to tie his shoe or remind him of his manners or help him to keep his place in line. I could only pray that what I had taught him by example would pay off and his safety would be the reward. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

Only 67 percent of Missouri’s teens are wearing their seatbelts. This leaves a third of our most inexperienced drivers in a most vulnerable position. Combine this statistic with the distractions that our teens now have at their disposal (OMG!) and you have a recipe for disaster.

With efforts being made through every avenue available, I can only ask myself as a safety advocate and parent, “Why aren’t they getting the message?” Does this message start at home, in school, by law enforcement, or at their first serious injury or fatality crash? Let’s pray it’s started at home, that lives are saved and the kindergarten pain will continue for generations to come.

I again experienced the kindergarten pain at his high school graduation, and am hoping the next ones will be at his college graduation, marriage, and birth of my first grandchild (hopefully in that order). Regardless, I’m sure I will wave goodbye, walk to the car and bawl my eyes out. Like I did when he drove his girlfriend to prom.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of people age 15-20. Somewhere today there is a parent experiencing the kindergarten pain as they leave a cemetery after burying their teen from an unbelted fatal car crash. They will wave goodbye, walk to their car and bawl their eyes out.

Parents, love your children. Children, love your parents. Seat belts are your best defense in any automobile accident. Buckle Up and ARRIVE ALIVE.