There are very few places where a mom can get some peace and quiet. Things that used to be sacred alone time are no longer that way when you have kids. All bathrooms are now public bathrooms. Quiet dinners out with your partner have been replaced by a noisy dinner at 5:30 p.m. You pretty much manage the chaos while scarfing down some chicken.
But the car can be a dreamy place. It’s a magical bullet of transformation that can take a screaming baby from frantic to dreaming in a matter of minutes. Turning your baby’s car seat around to see the world for the first time, you can see their minds being blown. Familiar landscapes are now seen from a new perspective. Putting your oldest kid in the “way back” for just one car trip and it’s like a whole new world has opened up to him or her. The car is a secret capsule of purity where conversations flow a little more easily and everyone gets a chance to just be for a few minutes.
I am lucky because my older son attends the school where I work, which means he is with me all the time. It is both a blessing and a curse to have my 20 minute commute now be a shared time instead of alone time. I used to use that time to go from being “teacher” to being “mom” by the time I arrived at daycare for pick up. But now it’s a much shorter transition that consists of walking from my classroom across campus to his. However, the car rides with him have actually become one of my favorite times of day.
Maybe it’s because we aren’t looking at each other eye to eye, or maybe it’s because he can stare out the window and dream. I find our conversations in the car to be some of the most fascinating. This is the place where my son always tells me the truth. He will tell me things about his true feelings for classmates, teachers and peers. He will relay stories of his day and ask me big questions. (“If Joseph is Jesus’ father, then is God his step-dad?” Yikes…!).
He also tells me in his most honest and pure voice, “Mom, I just need quiet right now. Can we please talk later?” These are the moments that I want to freeze in time as a mom. I can only hope that he continues to be open with me about his daily life and ask me the big questions when he wants answers.
This magical machine called the car does more than just take us from soccer to Starbucks. It can be a transforming vehicle of emotions. In my experience, everyone who gets in the car is a little more relaxed after driving for about 10 minutes. Maybe it’s the hum of the engine, or the passing the trees out the window. Whatever it is, it’s delightful and it can bring a person’s heart rate down and mood up!
I have clear memories (in the not so distant past) of being on the edge of a freakout because my two toddlers wouldn’t nap. They insisted that they were NOT TIRED even though I knew better. I would pack them in the car and we would drive our loop that took about an hour. It included some nice scenery for the first 20 minutes or so. Then a stop at the Starbucks drive through for me, and some back roads through town. When we returned home an hour later, everyone was feeling refreshed. The magical bullet strikes again!
We do have a DVD player in our car that comes out for long trips to grandma’s house. But most of the time it’s just us and the radio or read along books like these. Our favorite game of the moment, however, has nothing to do with music or distraction. It’s all about searching! We simply shout out “motorcycle!” whenever we see one. Everyone can do it and it gets them looking out the window and seeing the world around them. Win-win!