I’m a Carpool Convert and It Made Me a Better Parent


Who knew that carpooling could make me a better, more involved, happier parent? For years, I was the non-carpooling mother for a myriad of, I’ll admit, pretty lame reasons.

I didn’t want to rush even more than I already do, to pick up other children to take them to school in the mornings. I didn’t want to have to wait for another child who was running late. I didn’t want to worry that my daughter would get picked up late for one of her many after school activities.

For years I have sat in multiple parking lots in my car waiting for only my daughter to come out of whatever activity, knowing that I only had to worry about getting my daughter home. She was my only responsibility.

But then, last week, my daughter and her two friends needed to get to their weekly dance class, and the other two saintly mothers of my daughter’s friends, who have never minded driving my daughter to and from dance, had plans they couldn’t get out of. And the girls really wanted to get to their tap class. And I hadn’t yet carpooled in the four months they have been attending dance class. So…

It was definitely time to pull my weight in the carpooling world. There was no getting out of it. But who knew that carpooling could be such a mind-blowing experience? You think you know what your children are really like? You don’t! Until you carpool!

Do you know what is important to them and their friends at this stage of their lives? Not unless you carpool, my fellow moms! Carpooling, I realized, is the most efficient (and fun) way to catch up on what’s happening in your child’s life.

I barely said a word during the twenty minute drive (each way) which was fine, because I don’t think I could have gotten even one word in anyway. I drove, letting my daughter and her friends do all the chitchatting. Not only did I feel like I was on some wicked acid trip, but, OMG, do thirteen-year-old girls talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. One second they were talking about pony tails. A nano second later they were talking about their dance teacher. The next second they were gossiping about some girl in a crop top. And then it was back to pony tails and then how they despised their science teacher. They scrunched their noses when talking about stepdads. They moaned about a test the following day (which I had no idea about.)

Basically, I didn’t even recognize my daughter, who I am extremely close with. Or, so I thought.

I didn’t know, for example, that she wore mascara every day. I didn’t realize how much she didn’t like one of her teachers (‘and, like, how mean he is!’). There was a lot of talk about hairstyles and YouTube personalities and the girl in the crop top.

It was fascinating, like sitting at a restaurant with tables so close you can eavesdrop on the two people at the next table who are on their first date.

I also learned that they think school dances are lame, but, still, they may go to the next one. And something about an e-mail hack at their school.

For years, I always thought my daughter fell on the shy side. Not in this car ride. I saw a completely different side to my daughter than I do at home or when it’s just us two. I realized that I had not always been asking the right questions, and I had to literally bite my tongue to stop from asking why the science teacher is so mean, what they had against the girl in the crop top, and why high ponytails are no longer in style.

I had so many questions, but I didn’t want to interrupt, not just because I didn’t want to embarrass my daughter, but because I was trying to mentally remember all the questions I needed to ask her after I dropped off her friends.

Usually, or always, she sits beside me, in the passenger seat. Not this time, when I carpooled. They all piled into the backseat, as if I was just a chauffeur, which I didn’t mind, because they could forget I was even there. The more invisible I acted, the more juicy verbal vomit came out of their mouths. I loved hearing everything they said. Oh, to be thirteen again…

It’s not that I’ve never been around my daughter and her friends before, just not in such a confined space. Whatever they said, I couldn’t help but hear.

After I dropped her friends off, my daughter came to the passenger seat. And, yes, I did ask her about the test, how she got away with wearing makeup at school, why she hated one of her teachers, and why her friend didn’t like her mother’s boyfriend. And, of course, I absolutely needed to know about the girl in the crop top! I learned more in that 20 minute carpool ride than I do in a week. And my daughter and I talk to each other a lot.

Guess who signed up to drive the girl’s next week, both ways? Me! I’m a carpool convert, who found out a lot more about what’s happening in my daughter’s life…in less than an hour. And I didn’t even have to ask any questions. Yup, I’m definitely a carpool convert

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