Carolyn Hax: Tell Grandma to hang up and drive

Carolyn Hax
Columnist October 23, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion:

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My retired mom and I go to lunch weekly (she picks me up from work). I guess I never noticed until now, but she talks on the phone a lot while driving, which makes me nervous now that I’m seven months pregnant. These aren’t quick-hello calls, but long, rambling communications. She has made wrong turns, run yellow lights and almost gotten into crashes while yakking away.

She wants to be my primary child care once the baby comes, and I think she will be a fine grandma, but how can I keep her from risking my child’s life behind the wheel? I’m sure if I try to mention it, she will claim she never talks on the phone and drives. What then?

Preggo


Yikes. You have to say something — not “try to mention,” but say— no matter how sure you are that she’ll deny it. This is life and death, and not just for you and your baby, but also for her and for anyone else in those intersections.

If she denies it, hello, you’re her passenger! Often! Insist that she hang up. If she doesn’t, then say you’re going to get out at the next red light if she doesn’t hang up. (Assuming she brakes for it.) Then do it.

If you see no epiphany on the car-yakking, explain that she can’t drive your child anywhere, not unless she proves she gets it by putting her phone in the trunk. It has to be that simple.

Dear Carolyn:

You referred to people who were “in societal lockstep and had kids just as The Next Thing They Were Supposed to Do.” This really hit a chord for me.

My husband and I have been talking about having kids for some time now. And yet that hurdle feels incredibly daunting. How do you know that you really want kids, that you’re ready to become a parent? At this point I’m finding the “you should only have kids if you want them” people almost as annoying as the “but you would be such good parents!” people.

Lockstep?

Maybe I’ll chart some whole new territory of annoying with my answer.

If I had to pick one quality that would help sort undecided people into do- and don’t-have-kids piles, it would be . . . flexibility. If you’re comfortable with the idea of living the life you get vs. the one you’ve always had in mind, then you have the potential to find great joy in a life with children.

If instead you feel you work better in a landscape of known quantities, then opt out — and don’t apologize when the “Childless couples are selfish” people inevitably hunt you down.

Re: Lockstep:

There was another question about this awhile back where Carolyn said, paraphrasing here, that some people have more to offer by not having kids. I don’t know if it affected anyone else the same way it affected me (I decided then and there that I was going to stop feeling bad about wanting to write books and not make babies), but I feel it deserves repeating.

Anonymous

Thank you! That was in the May 4 online chat. Since I haven’t changed my mind since then, here’s the link: bitly.com/havenokids.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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