School is full swing in gear. Summer seems like a lifetime ago. And I’m back at Tom Thumb, grateful for the gas discount, waiting with all the other carpoolers to fill up our cars on Sunday night.
I’ve assumed my position behind the wheel and have somehow survived dropping off and gathering my kids at four different schools this year. The thought of it a few weeks ago left me weak. Okay, maybe nauseous. But it’s working. At least for the next few weeks while one rises bright and early to be at school by 6:15 a.m. for volleyball practice.
She doesn’t care about getting up. I’m actually thrilled to have a few moments with her alone. Even if it’s before the sun comes up.
And our first few weeks back in the car have confirmed a few things.
1) Despite a concentrated effort to get the words right and what I would consider spot-on harmonizing, my kids don’t like me singing in the car. Especially when their friends, specifically new friends, are along for the ride.
Kid: “Oh my gosh, Mom. You are SO embarrassing.”
2) One of the best ways to love your kids is to listen to them. Especially during the teen years. Even when so much of what they might be saying doesn’t make any sense. To them or to me.
But, there’s a difference between listening to and listening in. When participating in the latter, which is inevitable while driving them around, best to keep the listening-in on the low down. Chiming in can be deadly – nobody’s asking you.
After leaving the crazy great Tim Hawkins concert in Allen last night, the teens were buzzing, one after the other.
Kid: “Okay, my favorite was when he did that joke about Phil Robertson being in Lord of the Rings 4. ‘Where’s that ring. We’ll find it or no one’s goin’ to be Happy, Happy, Happy.” Followed by “yeah”s and “so funny” and
Me: “That was hilarious. What about when he told that one about Sweet Home Alabama? Oh my word. I couldn’t stop laughing – “
I look back in the rear view mirror to see if everyone is still alive only to receive a what-are-you-doing glare from my daughter. Her stunned friends resort to mouthing words to each other. I saw one silent say, “I know. She was SO loud!”
3) Chocolate does wonders. Especially after a long, stressful, new surroundings, sleep deprived, AP-laden day at school. A stop by Kuby’s is just what my passengers (okay, driver) ordered.
“Is this all?” ask the super nice checker guy pointing at my stash of mini-Ritter Sport chocolate bars.
“You came in here just for this?” I don’t think he could stop himself from asking.
“Pretty much. They’re delicious.” I lean in closer and whisper, “I sometimes dream about them.”
My kid standing next to me eyerolls, visibly trying to shrink from existence, barely believing that it could, in fact, get worse than the car singing.
4) Carting kids becomes all the more interesting with a budding driver riding shotgun. A budding driver who has now become the resident road rule informant and enforcer:
Kid: “The speed limit is 20! YOU’RE GOING 35!!”
Me: “I’m going 30 and that speed limit in only during certain times … when the lights are flashing. They aren’t flashing.”
Kid: “You hit the curb. You would fail your driver’s license test.”
Me: “I nudged the curb. And you’re right; a curb bump fails the test. Good thing I already have my license.”
Kid: “You changed lanes without signaling.”
Me: “There’s not a car within a mile. It’s okay.”
Kid: “The rule says signal. Cars or no cars. Signal.”
Kid: “Are you playing Candy Crush?! I see you. Yes. You are playing Candy Crush. You can’t do that and drive!”
Me: “We’re in the carpool line. Waiting. Stopped. No one is moving.”
Kid: “You’re still behind the wheel. … I just want you to know, you’re not being a very good example for me.”
5) Car talks make it all worth it. There’s something about a confined space with limited eye contact that promotes authentic, thought-provoking, issue-addressing, confidence-infusing, assuring, questioning, wisdom-dishing, gut-checking, laughter-filled and memorable conversations.
6) Which, in turn, has offered the biggest confirmation so far … punt group carpools as often as possible and drive the kids yourself. Sure it’s inconvenient. Sure you can literally feel the backside of your body flabbing out. Sure the screaming/whining/arguing can feel a bit overwhelming in such tight quarters. But when laughter fills the same space … oh, there’s nothing better.
Time in the car is golden. And #4 is a rude awakening that time in the car will be over way too soon.
Me, picking up a certain 6-year-old: “Hey … guess what,” I say, about to launch into something about a friend coming over.
Kid: “You love me?”
Me: “Yes. I love you,”
Relishing every moment of together.
Thanks for walking the road with me.