How to Spend Valuable Time with Your Kids in the Car

I have no idea.  I have heard this is a great way to bond.  I have changed my whole schedule just to be sure to drop off and pick my kids up from school.  And my kids seem to want me to, too.


But all the effort seems to amount to little.  They might go on their phones to check their Instagram (yes, they are only 12…).  We’ve all been told, don’t let your kids use their phones in the car (something about how you can’t see what they are doing, total transparency, yada yada).  But they actually don’t use their phones almost any other time throughout the day.  Checking your phone as a passenger of a car is a pretty natural thing to do.  They also use them to check in with their schedules, the weather.  Hard to say no.


Other times, I notice them just staring out the window.  This seems like a pretty great use of time, too.  We all need that time, just to wake up or slow down and decompress. 


Then, a funny thing might happen.  One of them gets excited and starts telling me a story.  Then the other one immediately interrupts them to try to tell their version of the story or something else entirely.  Suddenly airtime is sacred and scarce, even though I have been sitting there, ready to listen, for minutes. 


I guess this is the classic thing about just being around for your kids, when they need you.  Just be available and don’t structure it.  Feel honored when they come to you.  Feel graced by their love.  Feel grateful that they need you.  Feel patient when they don’t. 


Luckily, I love music, so rather than the radio or the news, we always have some soundtrack playing in the car.  If they don’t have something they want to play, I gladly fill the space with what I want and think is good for them.  Maybe it’s jazz, maybe its funk, maybe it’s something rowdy (as long as I turn it down before we roll into school; one of them is especially self-conscious).  Anyway, they almost always have something they want to play, and of course, as soon as one of them wants to play something, then the other immediately wants to play something else, so then they fight over that for a while.  Quality car time. 


Many of the families I help have different car time challenges.  It’s a great opportunity for kids to be mean to each other, cramped in with one another, no parent to witness the overt or covert abuse.  Everyone’s either tired because they haven’t woken up or because they already had a big day.  Probably late too.  Also, has anyone else been driving in Denver lately?!  Disasters abound.  In this climate, there has to be a No Fighting policy.  Seriously.  Like, when-you-start-fighting-I-pull-over-and-wait-cause-it’s-just-unsafe policy.  Even if you’re late.  I remember sitting in front of a strip mall with my kid in time-out on the grass.  That was a long time ago.  See, it worked!


Probably the funniest use/misuse of car time I have heard of is using it for conversations like the Sex Talk.  The idea being: captive audience, no eye contact, just have at it.  I wouldn’t recommend it.


Update: I drove my kids around so much recently that I actually got a repetitive motion injury in my foot!  I affectionately named this Soccer Mom Syndrome (SMS).  I then learned to drive with my left foot.  Not as hard as I thought.  I’m nothing if not intrepid.  

 One of the many cool murals we saw on a drive home.  Murals popping up everywhere these days.

One of the many cool murals we saw on a drive home.  Murals popping up everywhere these days.