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Be The Driver

How my parenting completely changed once I realized the value of time in the car.

The car I drive is white, but it might as well be yellow because most days of the week I am a taxi driver. I don’t mind it, largely because of advice I heard from parents ahead of me when my kids were little. 

First, there was the dad who told me how much he enjoyed taking his daughter to school each morning as it was their special time, a chance for him to stay up-to-speed on her life.

Then there was the mom who told me that when your child turns 16 and starts to drive, you begin to lose them. They want to spend more time with friends, less time at home.

While this may not apply to every teen driver – it certainly was the case for me as a teenager. My best memories at age 16 involved driving around with friends, blaring our favorite songs, and enjoying our newfound freedom.

All this to say, I try not to wish my years as a taxi driver away, and here are a few reasons why:

1. I have their undivided attention – and they have mine. Unlike home, the car doesn’t require a juggling act. I’m not distracted by laundry, dishes, clogged toilets, etc. My only job is to drive, which frees my mind and makes me more attentive…better able to talk and really listen.

2. Picking my kids up from school and activities allows me to catch raw thoughts and emotions. I can often sense by the way my kids approach my car how things went. I love being the first to hear about an accomplishment or a disappointment. I like getting their news hot off the press, and even those car rides where they burst into tears can be a blessing by opening the door to important dialogue and life lessons.

3. Driving my kids enables one-on-one interaction. When you have multiple kids, it’s hard to carve out alone time. I embrace one-on-one moments whenever they come, using things like a 5-minute drive to dance to tell my daughter how proud I am of her or a doctor’s visit as an opportunity to get Starbucks before checking back into school.

4. Not facing a person makes it easier to have honest conversations. I once learned in a psychology class that the car is a great venue for hard and awkward conversations because when we look at someone, we may hold back the truth due to fear of their response or embarrassment. 

5. Having older kids requires new ways to connect. Gone are the days when my kids open up to me as I tuck them into bed at night. Many nights, my oldest girls stay up later than me to finish homework. Car talks help me keep a pulse on their lives as their lives play out. Being in multiple carpools, I also love carting their friends as well and getting to know their personalities.

My parenting completely changed once I realized the value of time in the car. Never did I imagine, as I buckled screaming babies into car seats and watched cranky toddlers throw sippy cups, that one day down the road, taking my kids on the road that I might actually feel grateful to be a taxi driver because of the conversations and special moments that spontaneously come about.

It’s not possible or practical to always be the driver, but when we are, I believe in embracing the season where the car becomes our second home.

  • Author Kari Kampakis