Text Free Carpooling
Q: I drive a carpool for my daughter’s eighth grade club soccer team. It can take almost an hour to get everyone home. They’re on their cell phones texting the entire time, except for my daughter because I don’t allow it. I think we should all be conversing and I find it rude that they’re texting and giggling — and leaving my daughter out. Am I expecting too much? My daughter says the other moms allow this. Should I say something to the girls?
A: Some of my favorite memories with my kids have included conversations we have had in the car. There is something special about that uninterrupted time for a conversation. It never seemed to matter if the trips were short or long, they had a beginning, middle and end and the time together framed the possibilities of the conversations.
Our summer vacations included my being able to overhear their conversations with their grandparents and, during spring break, the conversations with friends they brought with them to Wooloroc and other destinations. My oldest son would show me a more outgoing and humorous side when he was with his friends. I loved it! The car can allow us to see aspects of our kids and share aspects of ourselves in an environment that allows listening to occur at a leisurely pace.
Please feel free to establish the rules for your own carpool. If these are your car rules, they can apply to all who ride in the car with you. You might want to give their parents a heads-up at one of the games so they won’t be surprised and won’t worry if the phones are on silent and put away in back packs when their girls are riding with you. You might find that they are not only in support of this, but might also try it out. It is not realistic to think that you can change the other carpool drivers’ rules about what they do in the car, but you can let them know how much you have come to love the conversation, music, nature, and silence as you drive your kids around.
For the first time you set the rules, you might want to suggest that the girls text whoever they need to let know they are leaving practice and also to let them know they will be in a text-free zone until they get home. It might be a great time to introduce a new hands-on activity in the car or a post practice, a snack, drink, and conversation. Still, don’t be surprised if they struggle with breaking the texting technology habit.
If conversation seems awkward at first, be prepared to ask about the practice, school, any upcoming tournaments, or special school events. If conversation seems to be lagging, you could go for music. Each rider could tell you about one new group, maybe even play something by them in the car. Another possibility is to have the girls share their family’s car games. They could choose one and try it out for a ride home one day. If they don’t have that family tradition, you could give them some ideas such as Dictionary. It involves people picking out things they see in order of a, b, and c, etc. Additional games such as 20 Questions, Contact or Geography can keep things going.
You can start a conversation by being curious about the girls’ thoughts about current events, fashions, and hairstyles. You could also ask where they would like to go if money were no object or, if they had $10,000 what they would like to do with it? As the girls get used to talking and getting to know each other better, asking about the best thing about their day and worst thing about their day could work.
This time in the car with the carpool will not only show the girls how to spend time without being attached to their phones, but also prepare them for the time when they drive without distractions. We all know the research about texting and driving — it’s bad. We watch drivers talking on the phone and veering out of their lane in traffic. Your role modeling of good car habits may help keep them safe once they start driving.
You might get some benefits too. Once they get used to talking in the car, you may become invisible. In many ways, you could get another perspective of your daughter’s life through these conversations. Remember, change is a process and messy, just like communication. Be good spirited and patient and thank them for honoring your car rules as you create the carpool atmosphere that they can all enjoy, technology free! Good luck.