I had a very disturbing dream last night that we let Benjamin drive our car and he drove down the street and out of sight (very safely and straight, I note). We were distracted and didn't follow him and when he came back a couple of minutes later he told us he had run into a child, he thought the child was seriously hurt or maybe even dead. I was horrified for this child, his family, and for the psychological scar that hurting this boy would leave on Benjamin. I was shattered with guilt. Strangely the guilt was not about letting Benjamin drive our car, but about letting him get out of our sight. Of course in the dream he was 5 years old, not 4-1/2.
I don't generally have prophetic, mysterious dreams. My dreams are almost always pretty transparently connected to something in my real life or something I've heard or seen. Though it's not a very mysterious nightmare, I am trying to figure out where it came from. A few days ago, while looking on the internet for information on booster seats I ended up at a car safety website, KidsAndCars.org. It warns about common accidents with kids, kids getting hurt or killed by getting backed over, by setting the car in motion, by getting caught in power windows, etc. It includes testimonials - close calls and tragedies - a couple of which I read. It's sobering information, probably stuff I didn't think about enough before I stumbled on that site.
One of the points the site brought up, which I hadn't really thought of, was why few (if any) American cars have power windows that work like garage doors, with a sensor that stops the window from closing if there is something caught or in the way. Another safety feature the site's backers favor is safer power window switches (ones that are difficult for children to activate accidentally).
I'm not sure what I think about all of that. We can't danger-proof every aspect of every product. On the other hand, these features don't seem that difficult or costly, and apparently on several European models these features are standard equipment. More information is on this "CarsAndKids.org" page: Power Windows Press Release. What do you think?
Turning back to my dream, the website didn't discuss letting 5 year olds independently operate cars on city streets. The bit about Benjamin going off on his own in the car may have been connected to my recent exaggerated anxieties about some things Benjamin did in school. A few times he innocently did and said some silly things to another boy who took offense at them. The boy is known to his parents and teacher to be kind of sensitive. Nevertheless, I was surprised and didn't know what generated the behavior in the first place. The situation seems to be over and never was a big deal. Nevertheless, it riled up my worries. I think both the conscious anxieties and dreaming about what happens to Benjamin and others when Benjamin is out of sight (and not under the guidance of my wife or I) are probably some of the early symptoms of the trouble many (or most?) parents have letting go.
Anyway, one truth is that parenting worries haunt parents even in their sleep, and - so long as it doesn't get out of hand - that's probably not a bad thing.
Meanwhile, Benjamin's driving privileges have been revoked until he's at least 23, even in my dreams.