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While growing up, there were a few places you could always find me: the trampoline, where I was free and strong; the living room heating vent, where I was warm and safe and my very favorite place, the car, where I felt my parent’s love.
In the front seat of my dad’s car, I cried on his shoulder when I didn’t get a good part in the dance recital. He held me and told me that he loved me, and I knew he meant it. There I learned that I loved Cat Stevens and that my dad was the coolest because he sang AC/DC, off key, at the top of his lungs. It was where he would ask me how things were going and where I would open up to him, telling him about my life over a greasy bag of Crazy Bread before we arrived home for dinner.
Riding in the back seat of my mom’s car was where I was introduced to the Boxcar Children on long rides to California. It was where she quizzed me on spelling words as she rushed me to dance class. I was in the front seat of her suburban when she attempted to talk to me about sex while I blushed and tried to avoid the subject. It was there she shared her disappointment with me when she found out I had lied to her and broken her trust. Riding in the car with my mom was where I grew up, as we chatted about boys, school, work and the future. It was where I changed from being her little girl to her friend.
Now that I am grown and have children of my own, my minivan has transformed into a place for me to connect with my children. Riding in the backseat, my boys have sung my favorite songs from childhood. There they have learned their ABCs and mastered their addition. It’s where they ask me questions about God, the world and nature. It’s where they listen to really cheesy made up stories that they still can’t get enough of. It’s where they yell at me to, “Turn it up,” and where they roll their eyes when I sing too loudly to old school songs. It’s where they learn to share their space and time with each other.
As I drive the everyday routine of carpools and baseball practice, almost every car I see has a mom on a phone, a dad with an earpiece and kids with their own iSomething. The whole family is together, but completely separate.
Because of society’s obsession with being entertained and occupied all the time, I often wonder how many tears have been missed, how many conversations never happen and how many joys have gone unshared because everyone is so busy doing the unimportant.
I can’t help but feel that families should bicker about what song to listen to. They should be a little bored together every now and then. Parents should still have to sing to their kids or tell them a story to pass the time. Families should look out the window at the world together. Siblings should be forced to talk about what is going on in their lives every once in awhile. Screens are easier and quieter, but I’ve discovered that the path of least resistance rarely yields unforgettable moments.
1comment on this storyIn the car, a family is held hostage: kids have to talk to their parents! Here—without intrusive technology—parents have a perfect opportunity to connect with their children. In a society where it seems like no one is ever going in the same direction and individuals often feel alone, parents should hold on to this one last sanctuary for as long as they can.
I’m not perfect at this. Sometimes I find myself falling into the trap of making car time my phone time or turning on a movie sooner rather than later on a road trip. However, in our busy schedules, sometimes car time is all the time we have to spend together. So I have to stop myself when I am in these moments and focus on my children, because they are growing up way too fast, and I don’t want to miss it.
I want my car to be one of my children’s sacred places, just like it was for me. I want to have conversations and make memories as we drive. In order to do this, we’ve decided that for our family, car time will be a time to unplug from electronics and plug into each other. If you choose to join me, I think we may all be surprised by the little and maybe not-so-little people we get to know who have been riding in our backseats all these years.
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