I had “the talk” at 85 km/hour. I helped work out a math problem at the drive thru. I fielded questions on what it means to be gay when the kids overheard the radio announcing the election of Ontario’s new premier.
Six kids. Schools in three different towns. Two extracurricular activities a week each. As you might imagine, I do a lot of driving. A thousand kilometres with the kids in the car some weeks.
Car rides to this or that are the most valuable minutes I have with my kids – and I’ve grown to understand that I need to turn off the tunes and use that time wisely. I have a captive, curious audience in my little Nissan cube.
Last week, I talked about my focus (it’s really a burgeoning obsession) on emotional intelligence with my kids. I believe that the ability to make them strong self-starters is the best thing I can contribute as a parent. The car is the perfect venue for this. For one, it lets me talk about sensitive stuff without the pressure of staring across from the kids and making them squirm. A step-parent having a talk about boys, hormones and such with a 12-year-old girl? Sit in the living room and you have to look at the guy, which I can guarantee you is both terrifying and scar inducing. But do it in the car and you can turn away and look outside. You can listen without feeling parental pressure.
The car also gives the kids time to think. The Jester, our 11-year-old son is probably the worst player on the worst basketball team in the league. The 30-minute-drive to the game is a chance for me to remind him about playing hard (and listening to some arena-rock to pump him up). Result? He played hard, had his best game and walked off the court with a smile that said “I had fun. I can do this.”
Being a parent with such a large brood means you’re constantly looking for efficiencies so that you can be the best you can be for each child. There are never enough hours in the day to give every hug, resolve every fight and teach every lesson (no matter what Bill Cosby accomplished back in the ‘80s). What surprises me most is that in trying to create those efficiencies, I’m actually learning that’s the best time to parent. I’m heard more, understood more and appreciated a little bit.
So the next time your little one asks to tote the iPad into the backseat, say no. Have a talk instead, even if it’s just about the amazing things you see outside the window. You’ll feel like a better parent for it.