Lessons Learned in the Carpool.

Life's not fair, and I'm the parent.

‘Resilience builds character’, is what my dad always said. A good guy with a big heart, you always knew you were loved, but he never failed to provide a healthy dose of reality when it came to his parenting. There were a few things you could always count on with my dad. They included, ‘I love you, life’s not fair, and carry on’.

This parenting style started early, like when I was five and a fall from my bike resulted in a skinned a knee. He was the first to wipe a tear, put the bandaid on, and finish with, ‘Now get back out there.’

My dad continued parenting this way through my elementary school years. I distinctly recall a discussion at a parent-teacher conference when the teacher explained I was a good student, but too social in the classroom. My dad would remind me,  ‘I know it’s hard, but your teacher expects this of you. It’s your job to be quiet and listen. This is not just for you, but for the respect of your classmates. It’s not fair for you to interrupt their learning.’ Accountability for my behavior and recognition of others was learned early.

My dad’s real and mildly sarcastic parenting style continued well into my middle and high school years. I remember thinking I was the only girl on the face of the earth who wasn’t allowed to go to a sleep-over or party. I would proclaim, ‘That’s not fair’. To which my dad would reply, ‘You’re right. Life’s not fair, and I’m the dad.’

Keeping it Real.

My dad was always keeping it real. There were no apologies for what life expected of me, and also none for not getting what I wanted. Lines were drawn, expectations were set, and I had to figure it out.

This element of parenting seems to be a bit lost today. Today many parents move every last obstacle so their kid will land softly when they fall off their bike.  We seem to have over-corrected what we believe was missing from our own childhood.

Today when it comes to parenting advice, I turn to a couple of trusted friends. They keep it real like my dad. and they have the wisdom to see how tough decisions today will help our kids down the road. They remind me, do not move obstacles for your kids. They look down the road and say of the kids who have the obstacles moved, that when they do fall later in life, it will be longer, harder, and more devastating. By not learning to navigate the bumps along the way, the big falls become breaks. So I use this parenting advice all the time, even in the carpool.

Do you parent the kid or parent the situation?

We’ve been a carpooling family for about 10 years. In my time behind the wheel, driving kids around, and putting my kids in the cars of other trusted drivers, I’ve learned a lot. You can tell a lot about parenting styles and acceptable kid behavior by what goes down in the carpool.  From my experience, kids pool (pun intended) into one of two parenting categories; 1) kids with parents who parent the kid, or 2) kids with parents who parent the situation.

The kid with the parent who "parents the kid", can figure out how to deal with the fact that they are carpooling so things don’t always go their way. They learn to wait a few minutes when picking up a rider. And on the back end, they learn to wait a few minutes before it’s time to go home. They know that their best friends aren’t always the other riders in the car, but they still find a way to enjoy the company of others.

On the flip side, the kid with the parent who "parents the situation", may only want to participate in the carpool when their kid approves waiting the extra five minutes on the front or back end of the drive. These kids may also want to switch carpools, shopping for the best carpool friend for the ride.

Over these carpooling years, we have paired high school seniors with grade school kids. We have paired the quietest kid with the loudest kid. We have extremely timely kids and chronically late kids. And in the end, the kids have figured out how to make it work.

Carpooling is a Life-Saver. 

I rely on carpooling. Carpooling is the only way I can get my kids where they need to be week in and week out. Carpooling is both convenient and necessary. It helps our whole family, including me, learn to appreciate others.  And when my kids are less than thrilled about a carpool, I call up a little of my dad's parenting wisdom, and respond with, 'I'm sure it’s frustrating, but carpooling makes it possible for everyone to get where they need to be.’ Then I add a dash of keeping it real and finish it up with, ‘If you'd like to ride your bike to practice, that’s an option too’.

Thanks Dad!