I never thought I'd feel this exhausted -- and I'm pretty sure it has to do with driving my kids everywhere.
These days, most of my hours are found behind the wheel, shuttling one or more of my three kids -- oftentimes with their friends. I love the chance to listen to their conversations, their music, and when the mood is right, their hopes and dreams. But it's a whirlwind I'm still not used to.
A recent Friday afternoon text from my high school freshman:
Him: U ok 2 pick me up?
Him: Would now b ok?
Of course I'll pick him up... just after I pick up my younger son and his little buddies.
As I pull up to the high school, my freshman stands with two friends in the freezing wind. I pull to the curb and my boy leans through the rolled down, passenger-side window: "Is it a problem to drop off Andrew and Julian, too?" he asks. The three boys brace their wiry frames against 40-mile-an-hour winds.
"Come on in," I say, telling my 4th grader and his two friends to move to the 3rd row.
"But we were here first," my little guy says as his friends scoot back, staring out the windows at the three bigger boys.
The negotiations begin.
"I know you were here first," I say, "but I'll drop Andrew and Julian off first, so make room for them."
With a dramatic huff, my 4th grader drags his backpack between the seats, assuring the need for repair and/or replacement before the school year is over. I grit my teeth as I welcome my newest passengers.
Sitting shotgun, my freshman changes the radio station as he says, "Thanks for the ride, Mom."
"WHAT?" my younger guy rants from the 3rd row. "We were listening to --"
"Settle down, Li'l Rascal," my older boy says, chuckling.
"MOM!" the younger one squeaks from afar.
"Don't whine," the high schooler warns.
"I'm NOT whining!" he whines.
In the rearview mirror, I glance at my four non-familial passengers who all avoid my glance and stare out the windows. While I can't be sure if they've participated in such automotive altercations themselves, God knows they're all dying to see whose music wins.
"Henry," I say to my older one. "They were listening to --"
"Mom," he says while attaching his phone to my car's stereo system. "Just one song, okay? And they'll like it..."
From the back, "HENRY!"
"Stop shouting please," I say with forced patience.
The music momentarily blares and everyone slaps their hands to their ears and I strangle the steering wheel.
"Sorry!" my freshman says sheepishly. "I was listening to it really loud earlier."
"HENRY!" my younger one pleads.
"Please stop YELLING!" I urge, still rattled by the explosive music.
"WHAT?" the little guy yells over the music.
"I SAID STOP YELLING!" I yell as I come to a red light. I put the car in park and turn my body around.
"Hi, Mrs. Wolf," Julian says. "Thank you so much for the ride."
"Yeah, thanks so much," Andrew says. "We really appreciate it."
I look to the 3rd row. Even 4th graders know brown-nosers when they see them.
"Hi, boys," I say to the freshmen. "And to you three," I say to littler ones, "thank you for moving to the--"
"Light's green, Mom," the freshman announces.
"Oh, okay," I say, snapping to attention.
Amazingly, the little guys sing along and giggle to the words of the bass-heavy song. The freshmen turn around and offer high fives to the younger guys. Laughter abounds and I loosen my grip on the wheel.
Upon delivering Julian and Andrew to their respective homes, I turn toward home. I've had to go to the bathroom for the last hour and I don't think I could have waited one more --
My cell phone rings and the freshman answers.
"Yeah," he says. "No. No. We're almost in front of the house. Okay, yeah, I'll tell her."
We come to a stop in front of the house and I push a button so the younger guys can tumble out the side door of the minivan. "Who was on the phone?" I ask, reaching for my purse.
"It was Maggie," he says. "She said you told her you'd drive her and Jensen to the movies. Their show starts in 10 minutes."