December 28, 2010

{Did I Let Raka Off Too Easy?}

This morning, Raka called me before she left her mother’s place.  Her tone was not the same old happy bubbly self.  I could sense something was not right. She confirmed it by saying, “Dad something happened, and you will not like it!”

My first reaction was, “Are you alright?”

She told me, “Yes, but as I was backing my car out, I did not realize that mom left the trash can in the garage so close to my car.  I did not see the trash can as I was backing out of the garage and I bumped my mirror into it. The mirror came off but I am sure it can be glued back on.” As I listened, she went on, “Mom should not have been keeping the trash can so close to the car!” 

I realized that the attention was switching to Raka’s mom. She had put the trash can there even before Raka had parked the car, so really Raka should have taken complete ownership for the error instead of blaming her mom.

These conversations are always better in person than over the phone, so I asked Raka to drive over to my place. I was outside, waiting for her when the red Nissan Sentra came over with the passenger side mirror hanging precariously from the side. Raka was very apologetic.  She kept telling me that the damage was minor and it could be glued back on.

I was not sure. Whether it could be glued back on or not, this could have been avoided. It was a clear case of a teenager rushing out of a garage and the consequences could have been way more serious.  I expressed all that to Raka and then sent her off to drive to school.  I told her we would talk about solutions after school.
As she left, I kept thinking.  It was time for “second chance Arjun” to take over.  I realized accidents happen, sometimes because we are careless and sometimes because they just happen.  Of course Raka could have been more careful and should be in the future, but instead of the consequence defining the event, I wanted to look at what lessons Raka should take from this. The real lesson was definitely not in the cost of fixing the mirror.

So I decided to drive to Raka’s school armed with super glue and masking tape.  Once I got there I assessed the damage again and realized it was worth trying to glue it, as if that failed then we would have to replace the whole piece. I got to work in the school parking lot. After I glued it back on, I used all the masking tape I had to make sure it stayed in place. Then I wrote some instructions for Raka on a note and left it on the car then came back home.

Raka and I continued our texting on the subject throughout the day without me mentioning my repairs. Raka soon announced that she had talked to her friend and her dad would be able to fix it.  I told Raka that it is that time of the year when miracles are in the air and that she should go and check the car out.  She went and came back completely excited.  She could not believe that the car was fixed!  At least for now, until the mirror falls off again.

When Raka got back from school we talked about the lessons and consequences. We talked about how she should take ownership instead of blaming her mom for keeping the trash can in the wrong place.  She also was lazy the night before when she drove in, as she should have moved the trash can at that time instead of trying to maneuver the car in.  Finally, she has to be more careful while backing out of the garage as it was very clear that the impact could have been far more serious.

Raka listened.  I realized that it was an easier discussion now that the car was miraculously fixed. The conversation was still assertive and directed, but in this case we were actually listening to each other. Of course it did not hurt that she was hungrily attacking the freshly made mac ’n cheese, and then caramel ice cream as she listened to me.

I love you Raka and you should take this as a warning sign and drive extra cautiously!
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