Parenting Practice: “Sit back and enjoy the ride!”
Making the Most of Drive Time
The past three weeks I have been: 1) to Sea World with my daughters and their friend for my 9 year-old’s birthday, 2) to basketball camp in Utah with my 3 teenage sons and their friends, and 3) back to San Diego with my husband and our 6 children for our family vacation. I thought school-year chauffeuring was exhausting, but summer-time can be even more so!
Fortunately, I’ve also learned a valuable lesson from all this “drive time”. See, I love to travel with my kids, to show them new places and people, but it can definitely be loud and stressful. Past experience has taught me that the more people you cram in a car and the more hours you drive are positively correlated with the level of noise, crankiness, and arguing that’s bound to occur. But I was prepared to handle the stress, to keep order as much as possible, and to employ my music/audiobook-stocked iPod and headphones the minute the noise and stress became too much. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that my plan wasn’t benefitting me at all! In fact, by tuning out I was missing out! And so, I ended up letting go of my need to “be the parent,” to “keep order,” or to “tune out the noise” and instead decided to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Drive Time=Time to Connect
Sitting back, observing, listening, or even joining in the fun can turn “drive time” into a time to connect with our children and open our eyes to things we might otherwise miss. For example, these past weeks I have learned that: My 4 year-old daughter, “knows” mermaids are “real” and that they “live in Japan, of course!” My 9 year-old daughter is “crushing on” One Direction and intends to go downtown and perform their songs with her BFF to “make some money”. My 11 year-old son has been stalking the Verizon ads and telling his brothers, “They can do up to 10 phones now, so mom can’t tell me we already have the 5 cell phone lines we’re allowed!” My 13 year-old has apparently been doing very well with his “business” of selling sodas, chips, and iPod covers to his older brothers’ friends, and my 15 year-old is astoundingly good at doing accents (his “Russian” gets the most laughs)! Finally, I overheard my almost-sixteen year old son share his best pick-up line for when we finally let him date (in two months): “Kiss me if I’m wrong, but is your name Optimus Prime?”
See? There is so much to learn about and from our children, and even if they seem like small facts or unimportant details, to our kids these facts and details mean everything. Drive time is the perfect time to get to know our kids, if we’ll just be present and pay attention.
Here are some suggestions:
1) Let them choose the music—The music your child selects can give great insight into how they are feeling and what matters to them. I was pleasantly surprised last week when I let my oldest “DJ” our drive home only to find he’d given up the angry “rap” he was into last year and settled back into the “acoustic” music we used to play together on our guitars (a sure sign his teenage “angst” is coming to a close)!
2) Join in the games and the fun—For longer trips, play a good, old-fashioned car game (we prefer the A-Z game where the first to find all the letters of the alphabet on road signs wins), or participate in whatever games your kids come up with (my sons and their friends took turns drawing pictures of each other on an iPad. It was creative, hilarious, and highly entertaining for us all!)
3) Engage in conversation with your kids and with their friends–Kids act different around their friends. If you want to get to know this other side of them, drive their friends around too. Ask questions that help you get to know them, (What do you guys think about…?), joke around, make them feel comfortable. You’ll not only get to know your kids better, you’ll get to know the kids they’re hanging out with too!
4) Sing together!—Let everyone take turns choosing a song from the radio or MP3 and sing along. This not only helped me stay awake on our 8-hour drive from Utah, but I was shocked to find that my sons and their friends knew all the words to “Living on a Prayer” and “Jessie’s Girl”! Learn the words to their favorite songs, too. (I can sing along to Eminem (the clean songs), Katy Perry, Coldplay, or One Direction–and my kids think I’m pretty cool when I do!)
5) Laugh together!—Take turns telling jokes, share fun and humorous memories, or trade interesting stories. Laughing together makes for a very memorable ride!
6) If all else fails, just sit back and listen. Sometimes the best you can do is observe. Not every kid at every age will let you participate in their fun. (I’ve had my share of “Mom, can’t you put your headphones on?”, believe me!) I try to respect that sometimes kids just need to be kids without the eyes and ears of a parent overseeing everything. In these times I sit back, watch, and listen. You can learn so much by tuning in to what your kids say and do when they think that you’re tuned out!
I know it can get old chauffeuring kids to and fro (I’ve certainly had my share of complaints about it)! But trust me, if you make the most of your drive time it can help you get to know your kids (and their friends) in a whole new way. In fact, it can improve your relationship if you let it! So, the next time you are driving hither and yon with SUV-loads of kids, sit back and enjoy the ride!
Any tips you’d like to share for making the most of “drive time?” We’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below!