I recently wrote about how I’m in a new phase with our kids. It’s been a difficult transition, being busy all the time. I’m gonna be honest with you: it’s probably been the hardest phase for me to adjust to. The other day, I tallied up my daily time in the car (and I’m sure many of you can relate). And this is just our regularly scheduled driving time, not including field trips, errands, or anything else that comes up:
Monday: 45 minutes
Tuesday: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Wednesday: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Thursday: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Friday: 45 minutes
That is a lot of driving time. At least, it seems like it to me. It’s not all at once, it’s 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there, with trips home in between.
I have had to be really intentional about being present in those moments when I just want to veg out and try to survive another trek in the car.
I was feeling like I needed to find the joy in these moments in the car. After all, it’s the season that I’m in, and I should make the most of it. I mentioned this to my counselor, and she replied with something that really got me thinking. She said, “Maybe God doesn’t want you to find joy in what you’re doing. Maybe He wants you to just ask Him to fill you with His joy. Wouldn’t that be more effortless?”
Why yes, yes it would.
And so, I started praying each morning as I started my day that God would fill me with His joy, that I wouldn’t rely on my own strength or resolve to get me through these unending car rides. I didn’t want to work to be joyful, I just wanted to be joyful. And I started asking Him for ways to make this time more memorable with my kids instead of just another chore.
Here are five things you can do to make carpooling with kids easier and more enjoyable:
Do something interactive
I recently started doing a “Question of the Day” anytime we all get in the car together. It works out great that we have seven people in our family, so we each have a “day” of the week, when it’s our turn to pray at meal times, our turn to do the dishes, our turn to take the dog out potty, etc. So, we’ve just added another responsibility to our list. Whoever’s “day” it is comes up with a question. It can be anything as simple as “If you could have any animal in the world, what would it be?” to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “What was the hardest thing you did last week?”
It. Has. Been. Awesome.
I feel like I’m getting to know my kids on a whole new level, and they are getting to know each other on a deeper level, too.
I absolutely love it. It makes time pass quickly, and is such a simple thing to do that will help you connect with your kids and appreciate them even more.
Fill the car with something positive
We pretty much always have K-Love or Air 1 on when we’re in the car. I love that the music is uplifting, with positive messages for my kids. Every morning at about 7:45, K-Love does an encouraging story of the day, and my kids always look forward to hearing what it’s going to be! Filling their minds with great music and positive messages is my way of subtly brainwashing them. =)
If you’re not into music, there are some great podcasts out there. We love RadioLab, but sometimes you need to filter to make sure they are kid-friendly. Here are a few great educational podcasts that will help grow your kids’ brains while you’ve got them trapped in their seats:
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
Speak words of affirmation
I’ve mentioned this before, but one thing that’s become a favorite tradition for my kids is speaking words of affirmation to them the first time we all get in the car together on any given day.
I tell them each something I love or appreciate about them…something unique and personal. Maybe it’s that I’ve noticed they tried extra hard the day before to hold their tongue. Maybe it’s that I noticed they did something kind for a sibling. Maybe I just love their sense of humor and want to tell them.
It really helps to change the direction of our morning, especially when we’re all cranky. I can get into the car, irritated with my kids, and they can yell, “Mom! Words of affirmation!” and I can mutter to myself for a moment about how I’m really not in the mood to give my kids praise, but I do, and I never regret it. Never. What a pleasure to see my kids faces (sometimes sour faces) turn to smiles and the whole mood of our car shift!
Have assigned seats
This might not seem like a big deal, but having my kids in assigned seats cuts down the arguing and bickering so much. They each know where they sit, and there’s no racing to the car to beat a kid to the best seat.
It goes without saying that less arguing = happier mommy. And happier mommy = happier kids.
Giving your kids the structure of knowing what’s coming will help them be calmer, happier and more likely to get along. You can choose to rotate seats weekly or monthly, but my kids have had the same seats for years, with a few exceptions. It’s wonderful.
Just embrace the season
This season that we’re in of carpooling and shuttling kids around to and fro is just that: a season.
You probably hear all the time, “Enjoy it while you can! It flies by so fast!” And as cliché as that sounds, it’s true. I feel kind of bummed that this new phase came when I didn’t even realize the other phase was ending, but I’m committed to experiencing this season for all it has to offer: the good, the bad, the ugly.
One day, they’ll all be doing their own things, and my heart will ache for these times in the car when we got to ask each other silly questions, affirm each other with positive words, blast the radio on full volume and roll the windows down, or just sit and enjoy a fun podcast together.
As exhausting as it is and as “mundane” as it seems, these moments with our kids in the car are just a fleeting bit of time that will be gone before we know it. Enjoy the time with them, and make the best of those precious moments!
Do you have any favorite tips for making your car rides more fun and enjoyable? Share them in the comments!