For us, the car is the place where many of our important discussions happen. Sex, drugs, politics, religion, current affairs, the meaning of life. This has always been the way, and I think it is because there is less distraction in the car. You’re trapped there for a certain amount of time with no TV, computer, book and so on. Some of the time, there is yelling, fighting and tears – and that’s just from me! Some of the time there is nice conversation, and if it’s at the end of the school day, I always ask “What was the best thing about your day? What was the worst thing about your day?” (I learn more from the worst thing by the way). And some of the time, we talk about those meaningful issues I’ve listed above.
Negotiating after school traffic while trying to explain that we’re not really in God’s stomach is a little difficult (I’m inclined to refer such theological questions on to my father, the minister). Trying to explain why our neighbour’s 13 year old daughter wears a head scarf and clothes down to her wrists and ankles even when it’s 30 degrees C while her brother gets to wear shorts and t-shirts is downright challenging. Explaining why someone would want to set off bombs at the end of a marathon is near-impossible. Working on the words we do and don’t like to use and how we can deal with hurtful words from others is much easier by comparison. Then there are the heart breaking questions – “Mum, why doesn’t this other child want to play with me?” – and their ilk. Sometimes, we play loud music and sing all the way home; sometimes we wind the windows down and wave happily to random passing strangers (poor sods).
I’ve come to love the car, and I view those trips to drop children to various sporting events as a great opportunity to have some deep and meaningfuls. Often, it is a time when I only have one or two out of the total tribe, and it is all a little quieter and there is more chance to connect. Someone once said that time spent in the car with your children wasn’t meaningful, but I’ve come to believe that that person did not have six children with their differing personalities, needs and opinions. I especially like the evening practices – or rather the return home. Last year, I got to have a very entertaining road trip with four, fourteen year old boys and three, fourteen year old girls. THAT made for a lot of fun, and I was very sad on those nights when I couldn’t make it for the run. But there’s an intimacy about the evening practices or games, especially if there’s only one child. Something about sitting in the dark, just the two of us, encourages us to talk meaningfully. So I make the most of my car time, and every now and again, some utter gems emerge.
There are many gems I could share with you, but I’d like to leave you with a word of wisdom from one of my six-year olds. We were on the way home from soccer. He was quiet for a bit (unusual, as this boy’s a big talker), then he piped up with, “Mum, I know what life is all about.” “What’s that?” I asked, somewhat absentmindedly. “It’s all about love Mum. Living is just about love, isn’t it?” There’s not much more to add to that really.