Etiquette expert Catherine Newman on how to tactfully ask your mother-in-law not to drive your children around.
John Gruen

Q. My mother-in-law is a dangerously timid driver. (Think: merging onto the freeway at 40 miles per hour while everyone else is going 70.) I have a baby and am concerned about having my mother-in-law drive her around. I would prefer that my child never ride in the car with her, but enforcing such a rule would be inconvenient and potentially hurtful. How should I approach this?

Jennifer W.

Bowie, Maryland

A. Your concerns are valid: Older drivers do get into more collisions than younger ones— though a study released last year found that kids are less likely to be injured in collisions that occur when grandparents are behind the wheel than when Mom or Dad is driving. (That might be due to the absence of speed that has been racking your nerves.)

But statistics will hardly tame your protective (and reasonable) mama-bear impulses. My two cents? Do your best to arrange outings so that your mother-in-law is never in a position to drive your child. But if the situation arises and you can’t bear the thought of her shuttling your little one around, place the blame on your new-mother anxieties. Tell her, “I know I’m a Nervous Nellie, but I feel more comfortable driving the baby myself.” Hopefully that admission will soothe any wounded feelings. And remind her that your kid won’t be so tiny forever. Maybe when your child is bigger, you’ll feel relaxed enough to make a different decision.