Dear Children Riding In My Car,
We need to have a chat.
You have lost sight of my purpose when I’m in the car. And since I spend much of my time there, we need to redefine the roles, so that I don’t go batshit insane crazy. I’ll give you a hint. My spot is called The DRIVER’S seat.
Here are the things I am NOT supposed to be when I am driving:
Your Personal DJ
While I understand the extreme urgency in finding a suitable song to accompany the driving experience, I am not in the car to be your DJ. When we are still in the garage and I haven’t even put on my seatbelt, and you are each screaming at me to turn on the radio to a different channel, I have an urge to drive right through the garage door.
I get it. You are hungry. Never mind that I gave you your third breakfast of the morning right before we left the house, in the hopes that we could get through 20 minutes in the car without needing to feed and water you. I understand. You are starving. Hangry. But if you are seriously about to die of hunger, you would say okay and take the first snack that I hand back to you, not reject it and the next 15 options as well. I am not a refrigerator. I am not a restaurant. I am not a waitress. My focus is on the road, not on pulling a filet mignon and a hot fudge sundae out of my glove compartment. Take the apple or wait.
Yes, it is annoying that your sister is trying to strangle you with her scarf kicking your seat because you reclined it all the way back into her lap. But when you are in the third row of the minivan, and I am in the DRIVER’S seat, it is not my job to break up physical fights. I drive. That’s my job. I need to worry about protecting your body from threats outside our car, not threats inside it.
Your Garbage Can
So I’m driving along and BAM! Who threw the half-eaten drippy yogurt tube at me? Can’t you hold it until we get to our destination, and then you can throw it away? Must you decide to spit out your half-chewed gum and hand it to me as I navigate a left turn on a snowy road in the dark? I am not a garbage can. And your aim sucks, anyway, because half the time you throw things at me and miss, so now I have bits of paper and crackers and wrappers hiding in the crevices of my car. When I am driving, let me drive. I need to focus on avoiding the floating plastic bag that is drifting into my lane on the highway, not on ducking from your yucky tissue.
You say you are bored because I won’t allow iPads and screens in the car? Let me tell you a story, kids. When I was little, we used to look out the window and play I Spy for hours on a road trip (granted, we were all lying untethered across the back seat of the station wagon, but I lived to tell the tale). Talk to each other. Daydream. Sing to Raffi tapes. Play games. You have siblings for a reason. Entertain each other. And if you are the only one in the car with me, you could try talking to me.
Your Dedicated Pair of Eyes
How is it that you can climb into my car and reply “Nothing” or “I don’t know” when I ask you to tell me about your day, but as soon as I am pulling into traffic, you must show me fifty extremely urgent things. I am not facing you. I am facing the road. My head doesn’t swivel 180 degrees; it only swivels 90 degrees. So I cannot turn to look at the tiny print on a school form that is behind my head. I can’t turn to appreciate each detail on your drawing, although I would love to hear about it as I drive, and I will happily look at it and admire it when we reach our destination. How about you decide to tell me “Everything” in the car and show me “Nothing”.
Your Administrative Assistant
So I am trying to navigate the narrow streets crowded with 200 minivans and small children throwing temper tantrums on the edge of sidewalks as I pull away from the school, and you want me to grab my cell phone and arrange a playdate? I was just standing two feet from all the other parents and babysitters at pick-up. That would have been a fine time to tell me that your world will end if you can’t have just two more hours with the child you sat next to all day. It is not my job to arrange meetings with your people when I am driving. I’d rather focus on not taking off the side view mirror of some mom’s car.
There are all these laws forbidding the use of handheld devices while driving. As there should be, because it is undoubtedly distracting to use a phone in the car.
But if the focus is on avoiding unnecessary distractions while driving, there should be a ban on driving with children in your car. You kiddos pack the punch of 10 different smartphones all screaming for my attention at the same time. So I am turning you all to silent, because I love you more than life itself, and when I am driving, my ONLY job is to get you safely from one place to another. Got it?
A mom who adores you
Check out Carrie Goldman's award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.