As the pair headed for the family car in the small Louisiana town of Slidell that Tuesday, the girl said she wanted to drive home. The adult made a good decision to refuse the child's inappropriate request. Then she made a very bad one by offering to let her drive around the mall parking lot.
So the twelve-year-old got behind the wheel, backed out of the parking space without a problem, and drove onto the town's busiest street. "No! No! No!" yelled the mother. "I wanted you to stay in the parking lot!" The girl went to hit the brakes and slammed her foot onto the accelerator instead. The car jumped a curb, landed back in the mall parking lot, and crashed into two cars.
What comes to mind when you hear about something such as that?
The good fortune that nobody was killed?
How immature twelve-year-olds are?
How irresponsible parents can be?
All those things come to mind with me too. But it also seems to be something of a parable for our time.
We are letting the wrong people drive when children dictate family life to the adults God put there to nurture them. I'm frightened when I see how many parents seem to be intimidated by their kids these days. Give me what I want at WalMart or I'll pitch a tantrum. Let me wear what Britney Spears wears or I'll pout and say you're mean. On and on it goes. Immature children don't need parents who are their buddies, but parents who can be their role models and teachers.
We let the wrong people drive when performers and athletes or business persons and politicians put profit above principle, behave in immoral and uncouth ways, or generally corrupt our culture — and we tolerate it. We keep supporting and glorifying them. We close our eyes and let them steer us into trouble.
"That wasn't the brightest thing to do," said a police officer at the scene of the car wreck. "But at least they were wearing their seat belts." Against the utter absurdity of what happened, that seems small comfort!
Perhaps we need to pay more attention to who is getting behind the wheel.