Swings And Lane Cutters. When A Win Is Not A Win.

Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you see a sign in big flashing letters that unmistakably says MERGE RIGHT. LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.

Being the good reader that you are, you take this to mean that the left lane is closed ahead.  You merge right because you know that no left lane will preclude driving in the left lane. You are astute like that.

Then you, along with the other good readers, spend the next 30 minutes painfully inching forward in the right lane for the next mile where the left lane actually ceases to exist.  And as you approach the point where the left lane ends you are united with those who did not merge right a mile back and now insist that you let them in.

And are you like me in that some days your tendency is to look straight ahead and pretend that you don’t see them? And maybe you keep the front end of your car so close to the back end of the car ahead that even a gnat couldn’t pass between?  Or maybe you are even brazen enough to look over at them and give them the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look.  You maybe even say to yourself, “That’s no fair!  Get in line and inch up like the rest of us!  Who do you think you are??”

Now that I’m older and have a slightly better grip on what is important in life, I’ll usually just wave one or two in front of me and go on my merry way, because the stress of teaching the world a lesson while behind the wheel of a car is just not worth it.  But sometimes, it’s just one of those days and I can’t stop myself, and I allow myself to falsely believe that they will change their me-first-lane-cutting ways and the world will be a better place for all concerned if I don’t let them get away with it.

But that never happens.

Those days when I just have to right the traffic wrongs, I never move along feeling better about myself.  I never feel like I made my little slice of the world a better place.  In fact just the opposite.  Sometimes a win is not really a win.

A while back, we had an exceptionally spring like day in the middle of the winter and Sean and I were hanging out at the park.  Sean was on the swing, not really swinging, but just kind of sitting and twisting in the sunshine.  A neighbor showed up with his little grandson who is about four and as is typical of four-year-olds, he wanted the swing Sean was on.  Being four, he did not say, “Pardon me sir, if you’re not going to swing, may I?”  No. Being four, he tugged at the chains and said something like, “I want to swing.”

To this, Sean responded by digging in his proverbial heels.  He gripped the chains tighter and sat as immovable as Mount Rushmore and gave the four-year-old the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look, which was painfully all too familiar.  He was going to teach that four-year-old a lesson – you can’t just cut in on the swing!

I really wanted Sean to voluntarily give up the swing for three reasons.  One, I want Sean to have a good heart, one that loves to give and serve.  Two, I want Sean to experience how good it feels when you respond with kindness where it is not necessarily warranted or likely to be reciprocated.  And three, and I am cringing as I write this in naked honesty, I wanted my neighbor to think I was an awesome parent.

But at the same time, I didn’t want to force Sean to give up the swing.  Embarrassment is never an effective teacher in my opinion.  As expected, Sean soon grew weary of the little boy tugging at the swing, so he got off and we headed home to sit on the front steps and watch the world go by.

I took that opportunity to try to tell him how sometimes when you win, you don’t really win, knowing that this is a lesson he will have to learn on his own over and over throughout his life.

“I know you probably don’t understand this just yet, but you could have given up the swing to that little boy and it wouldn’t have cost you a thing.  And you could have looked really big in the eyes of that little boy and his grandpa,” I said, “And bonus, when you do something like that, you get to feel good about yourself.”

He didn’t respond to that.  I could tell he was giving it skeptical consideration or trying to figure out how to get off the subject.

“What if you give up something that does cost you?” he asked.

Good question.  Crickets chirped as I tried to think of something I had given up lately that had cost me something and couldn’t come up with one thing.

“I guess then you get to look big in the eyes of God,” I said slowly, more to myself than to him, wondering what in the heck just happened here.  I thought I was supposed to be the teacher.

Sometimes, the teacher is the student and learning is more about the questions than the answers.

21 thoughts on “Swings And Lane Cutters. When A Win Is Not A Win.

  1. Great post! I agree with Maria and Carrie, though I didn’t used to. It always seemed rude to me when others didn’t merge as soon as they saw the sign, and I would get mad at my husband for not merging until he absolutely had to. He finally convinced me that it was much better for all concerned if both lanes were used as long as they could be. It makes sense now that I think about it, so sometimes it just takes thinking through a situation in order to understand the other person’s perspective.


  2. I just love, love, love to see your posts. I truly miss your naked honesty and your views of the world. So happy to read this today. Very many times have I been in the middle of a lengthy and off-the-cuff explanation to my kids and I end up hearing the answer I’ve needed to teach myself. Most often, it’s a lesson that God has been trying to teach me. Well written, Antique Mommy!


  3. OOPS didn’t get to finish

    not one person is behind me so all they needed to do was slow down and wait for me to pass to get over. Yes, I’m petty when it comes to the merge. I find myself yelling NO DON’T LET THAT JERK IN. He/she could have waited like the rest of us.

    I guess, I’m meant to learn something from your post. And I did. I’m 42 and still not sure if I’m mature enough to apply it on most days. haha

    Sean is one smart young man and is VERY lucky to have a mom that is as smart and precious as you.

    So glad you are writing here again. You have been missed.


  4. Girl, I know the traffic issue you speak of because they are NEVER ending or so it seams. It drives me more batty when they feel THEY have the right to honk at ME when I don’t let them in or only let one person in. Or to be honked at and look behind me and NOT ONE PERSON


  5. I just realized that my comment only focused on the part of your story that I had a differing opinion on and totally ignored the rest of the message. I’m sorry! That is something I’m working on…erg.
    The whole concept of doing something nice or sacrificing something and not being openly rewarded for it has been on my mind a bit. (Especially when I feel like I’ve done a lot for my 3, 2 and 1 year olds and those ungrateful little things don’t seem to notice!) Always doing the right thing, giving grace and love to someone regardless of their reaction is a lofty, but worthy goal I hope to achieve one day!
    Thanks for the reminder.

    * * *
    Thank you. This post is not really about traffic. 🙂


  6. I was going to say something similar to what Maria said. I used to feel the same way about those guys who just drove on past everyone and then cut in. I now look at the Non-Early-Mergers in a different light and have actually become one. 🙂


  7. I read a fascinating book called Traffic which discussed the merging problem. I learned that it is actually more efficient for cars to remain in two lanes as long as possible, and that although the drivers who don’t shift lanes early seem greedy and impatient, if everybody merged as soon as they saw the sign it would actually take longer to clear the bottleneck. I’ve looked at the late-merges differently ever since.


  8. I’m with Another Kay and I like the Grandpa. Not everyone would have said that and they would have expected Sean to get up because the younger child wanted that swing. In the your older and he’s younger thing.

    Sad thing is some parents aren’t teaching their kiddo’s the same. And some parents weren’t taught. Some parents today would have said, Move it buster…my kid wants that swing. It’s like trying to stay out of the way of lawnmower blades.

    And you’ll know me in heaven cause i’ll be the one without ears. They’ve burned off from the heat that rises from the people that lacks the manners to move over into the creeping lane when I do.
    Hubby will be the one without a head.


  9. While I have had the same thoughts about lanes and merges and have come to realize that “every other one” in is a good thing, my real problem with the swing story is: Where is the 4-year-old’s grandpa? Where is the lesson to that child that if someone is already in possession of something you want, you wait? You might stare and look pitiful, but you don’t pull and beg. Occupy yourself otherwise and sometimes the possessor (of the swing) may want to come and play with you.

    * * *

    Grandpa is a good guy and mindful of the 4YO, not slacking at all, he may have even said “Wait your turn” or something like that, I don’t remember. Sometimes the learning process of pulling and tugging and finding out that strategy doesn’t get the results you want is better than Grandpa jumping in with a correction — and we live in a neighborhood where people feel comfortable participating in the learning process. 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts, I love your perspective.


  10. What a lovely story. We travel life’s adventure and we hit many potholes along the way. But I think that the question reveals your integrity. It may cost you in the end but you know in your mind you did what was right. And that allows you to move through life and hold your head up high.


  11. You just hit on my pet peeve. I never thought that perhaps God would be proud of me for allowing myself to be bullied, but it is possible. In traveling betweem Ohio and FLorida, we occasionally get in hour long traffic jams that require the dreaded piggy merges only to find two workmen scrapping a piece of bubblegum off the roadway. Then, I don’t know who is the worse…the squeegee driver sticking his Hummer in the three feet between me and the next car or the State for holding up thousands of drivers for a rule requiring a mile of orange cones for a minute long job.


  12. There is a line in a Michael Card song that says “questions tell us more than answers ever could…”. Hmmm….

    (Haven’t heard the song in forever I can’t remember the title. Of course. Isn’t that always the way?)


  13. Yesterday, I saw a road sign which read “Allow Merging”(two of them a row, which hinted of desperation on the part of the traffic managers).

    I was possessed of a desire to return at 3.00am, with a huge sharpie, and amend the signs, to read “Marsh MAllow Merging” (there was plenty of space at the top, for the word “marsh”. (This has almost nothing to do with your lovely thoughtful post!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s