Thursday, March 15, 2012

Carpools: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

As a stay-at-home mother with three active kids, a husband without a flexible work schedule and a car big enough to hold more than just my own offspring, I am doomed to car-pool.  Doomed, you say?  But carpooling is so convenient and so good for the environment!  Carpooling allows three children to safely and easily be in three different places at the same time.

Yes, yes, yes, that's all true.  Carpooling is all of those things and I am thankful for the many carpools that we have been involved in over the years.  Without carpooling, two of my three children would almost always be stranded somewhere, twiddling their thumbs.  I know!  But agreeing with these facts does little to ease the sense of dread I get when beginning a new carpool.

Years ago, when Josie was a first year student a a co-op nursery school, I met a very prim, British mother whose sarcastic sense-of-humor was similar to mine and we shared many a conversation about our love-hate relationship with the school.  We LOVED the class and the school in general, but we HATED having to teach one day a month.  In other words, the co-op part didn't appeal to us, but the nursery school part did  My British friend and I were discussing our mutual dislike of menial teaching chores and spoiled children, when she came out with the following whopper of a summation:

"In England, we say that children are like farts;  You only like your own."

Go ahead and put on your best Kate Middleton accent and say that a few times to yourself.  You have to say it out loud to get the proper balance of shock and awe.

I agree with that British mother on many levels and particularly so when it comes to carpooling.  Other people's children can be hard to take when confined to the minuscule inside of a car.  Right now - at this very moment - I could rattle off the names of 6 children whom I absolutely love driving around and three of them are my own.

The other three children I can name share the same qualities:  they are polite, don't scream while talking, don't complain incessantly and get along with all of my children.  I carpool with one friend of Georgia's who fits in so well with our family that I often forget to go to her house to drop her off after soccer practice.  These are Dream Children compared to the children I normally drive around.

What kind of child do I normally drive around?  Let me tell you:

1.     A child (10 years old) climbed into my car and said "Georgia!  Your car is DISGUSTING!"  (please do not ask me what the facts were in the matter.  That is hardly relevant)
2.     A child (7 years old) asked where our tv screen was and when told that we don't have a tv screen in our car, proceeded to tell me why we needed to get one before the next carpool happened
3.     A family of children who carpool with us frequently who have never once said Thank You upon arrival at the destination.  Not Once.
4.     A child who complained incessantly about how much she hated the activity that we were driving to, thus convincing my child that her previously-loved class was horrible.
5.     A very young child who had never before ridden in a car with any adult other than her parent, who used a cell phone to call her mother en route and give her a play by play of my driving skills.
6.     A child who complained loudly for the entire ride that he was starving and pointed out every fast food restaurant as we drove by
7.     A child who rolled his eyes and snorted every time Georgia opened her mouth to say something.  I don't remember his exact words, but he eventually asked Henry if he ALWAYS had to bring his little sister along to hockey practice.  When told "yes," the child then said something along the lines of "that's so awful."  Did he think Georgia couldn't hear him?  He was sitting right next to her!
8.     A child who explained in painfully rich detail the story line of the last Harry Potter book even though we had explained to him that some of us (Henry and Georgia) were still reading the novels and didn't want to know the ending just yet.
9.      A child who once complained that we never listened to Christmas music during the carpool,
10.    Two children who were so amped up on sugar that they kept taking off their seat belts and diving from the rear seats to the middle seats and back even though I repeatedly yelled at them to stop doing so.

This is just a sampling.  I've driven children who screamed and shouted the entire way.  I've driven children who have spent the whole hour car ride kicking the back of my seat.  I've driven a child who refused to get out of the car once we arrived at his house and instead hid on the floor "as a joke" until I was red-faced with rage.  In that instance, I would have just left without bringing him to the door except that leaving would have meant taking him with me and that Just Wasn't Going To Happen.

I must hide my feelings really well because the amount of carpooling I do increases every year.  Gordy thinks that there must be a message board out there with my phone number on it, because I am constantly being asked to cart other peoples' children.  I seem to be the go-to person when a parent has a conflict and while I don't really mind (I believe that all carpooling evens out eventually and I will get my day off someday), I have noticed that my car is often full.

I can't help but wonder if my myriad carpooling problems are just a great karmic payback of some sort.  When I was in high school, I may or may not have volunteered my father to drive an every-other-morning carpool without asking him first.  He was usually game for driving, if one promised to take the dog out for a walk, and I figured that I would just ask him for a ride every other day and then casually throw in a "Can you pick up Rebecca, too" at the last minute.  Slick, right?

I'm pretty sure we said Thank You when we got to school, though, so that's something.  And even though Rebecca's mother's car was always disgusting, I never once pointed it out to her!


elisabethellington said...

All I have to do to get some perspective on MY kids is to be around OTHER PEOPLE'S kids. And then, suddenly, mine look a lot better. At least they have better manners! And given what we had to overcome to teach them good manners, I'm not quite sure what the problem is with other people's kids! I've never carpooled--we are so anti-social. But I loved your post!

Martha said...

Thanks! Manners are SOOO important. I'll even ask the carpool mom if my child said thank you when they got to their destination. Manners require Constant Vigilance. Another thing I've tried to teach my children is to think before you say something aloud. Not every thought needs to be converted to speech especially if that thought is rude or could be wrongly perceived. I certainly don't think my children are perfect but I hope they remember their manners on most days!

Layla said...

You are a saint for dealing with so many children year after year! I do understand your pain, and for that, I have such a great respect for you. The only thing that caught my attention is that you mentioned one child refusing to get out of the car to go home. That is a MAJOR sign of child abuse, which is more abundant than you may want to think! I was a victim of this, and I want to protect any child that has to go through the same. I remember as a child, I never wanted to go home, always made excuses or played games to draw out the time, and as I got older simply stayed after school as much as possible with clubs and other activities. While this may have been a one-time outburst for that particular child, I would definitely keep my eye out for anything that doesn't seem quite right. Overall, I highly enjoy all your posts! Keep them coming!

Martha said...

How terrible, Layla! I'm so sorry! I certainly hope that this wasn't the case in the situation I wrote about. I'll be sure to pay attention in the future. Thanks for visiting and for leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...

I drove the same child back and forth to school for 2 whole years and I can count on one hand the amount of times I was thanked by that child. Manners do count and I find myself willing to drive the children who appreciate it and unwilling to drive the children who don't. Even prompting that child by saying "you're welcome for the ride" didn't elicit a response other than "bye". I think if I ever told her parents about this they would be absolutely horrified.

On another note, I once drove a group from my daughter's 1st grade class to a field trip where one of the girls burped the ABCs in the back seat the whole way there as another boy was complaining the whole time. It was quite an adventure!

I too, have a large car big enough for 8 so always seem to be the one driving around. I actually like it when my teenage daughter and her friends are in the car and talking because then you hear more about what's going on in their world, which is a good thing these days!

Martha said...

You are so right about driving teenagers - I'm sure you hear A LOT in those carpools! I too have "reminded" children to say thank you with little to no success. It's very annoying! Thanks so much for stopping by. Come back soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh the carpools!! I had a little one tell me my car was very messy - problem was - she was right!

Martha said...

I've had that happen, too! Our car can often be pretty gross. That just comes with the territory when you have children, though, right? I hope? I can't believe that everyone vacuums their car regularly. Thanks for stopping by!

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