Mother's Day and the Surprising Gift of Carpools

 From full road trips to jaunts about town, these two make it pretty darn fun.

From full road trips to jaunts about town, these two make it pretty darn fun.

This Mother’s Day weekend I’m reflecting on how much motherhood has changed for me over the past 13 years.  From the sleepless single mom nights of wanting nothing more on the holiday than to go for a run without having to push a stroller and take an uninterrupted nap until I wake up on my own to the place I am today- looking at my children looking closer and closer to adults and wanting to keep them with me every second I can.  I’m finding those moments in surprising places this year, and creating them when I can.

Several times lately I’ve reflected on how much I love to drive the carpool much to the surprise of others.  A few months ago driving the kids became a near part-time job, and I considered hiring someone else to do it.  My reasoning was simple:  work is busy, home is busy, and I would much rather pay someone else to do this chore.  I mean, it’s not like it’s quality time with the kids.  Or is it?  

 Even the pup gets some quality time in the van.

Even the pup gets some quality time in the van.

Deciding to question that assumption a bit, I tested.  I started planning for car time like I would a meeting at work: what was it I would like to talk with them about today?  What am I wondering about?  Anything we need to problem solve while we have 20 uninterrupted minutes together?  

With a teenager and a tween, I’m more aware than ever how precious time together is, in whatever form it takes.  Many would argue these are hard ages to want to spend time with— and there are days that has felt true.  However, there is an inverse correlation in our house between how much time we spend together and the level of their difficult behavior.  The less quality time we spend together, the crankier they become (generally speaking, of course— there is admittedly that dropping off point where they’ve simply had it with Mom).

To fully vet this plan, I started turning off the radio and paying real attention to them.  I look at them when they get in the car, usually give them a pat or a squeeze across the seat, and tell them genuinely how glad I am to see them.  You know, like you would a friend— I treat them, and our time together driving from activity to activity and back home, like I treasure it, and I’ve started to do just that.  

 I ask them genuine questions— what happened today that connected you to one of your friends?  How are you really feeling about your math class?  What’s interesting you at school these days?  The kids responded immediately with warmth, but still monosyllabic answers but they seem to have a new expectation now.  They aren’t giving me one word answers anymore.  They are really digging into the time, giving me reflective answers and asking me things they have been wondering about.  The trips started to become something I looked forward to instead of dreading the traffic or the “interruption” in my day.  

 Wishing you all a very happy Mother's Day

Wishing you all a very happy Mother's Day

We’ve worked out problems together from small conflicts at home to why the Pythagorean Theorem really works.  I’ve heard their musings about what they are dreaming of doing when they grow up, and why don’t we take time to read aloud at night any more?  (We’ve remedied that one by the way).  I’ve gotten to hear them talk to their friends about the latest You Tube craze and what they are doing about that jerk at school who is giving everyone fits.  I’ve been their public speaking coach and their confidante, we’ve danced together to their favorite pop songs before games, and I’ve held their hands while they cried.  I rarely have to rush them out the door anymore to get to this place or that, because they look forward to hopping in our beat up old mini van and having some hang time together as much as I do.  This.  This is what motherhood is about in this stage, I think.  Finding the moments you are given with the people you treasure, and making them golden.  

Happy Mother's Day, friends.  May you have the day you need and imagine to keep you fueled into the year to come in this most sacred and precious job.