Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mom and The Art of Chauffering

My girlfriend J. had a dilemma the other day. Her college-aged son, home for the Triduum, had a music gig in his college town about 40 miles away at two Easter services at a  Presbyterian church and then had to come home for Easter dinner. He isn't an experienced driver, so her initial plan was to drive him to the first gig, drive home, then go get him when the second gig ended, drive him back home for dinner, then drive him back to college. We're talking 240 miles of driving in one day.

No! I told her, perhaps a bit too forcefully. Drive him to the first gig, wait the three or so hours until they both are over, then drive him home. Have his dad drive him back to his dorm after Easter dinner. OK, she said, but what would she do with all that time in the van, waiting?

This got me to thinking. How it is I came to be somewhat of an expert at filling all those hours in the minivan, waiting for our sons to finish up whatever activity it is I have driven them to? I drove our boys to and from a private school - one hour each way - for five years. Now both boys are busy with music groups and sports and the lessons and performances and the practices and the games are often not nearby.

Yesterday, for example, I spent from 3 to 9:45 p.m. driving the van, or waiting for my older son at the dermatologist, cycling practice, with a stop at the pharmacy at the day's end.

I am NOT going to talk about what I have done in the van while driving, like how I read most of the Narnia series to my sons while heading down the highway to their private elementary school by propping it to the steering wheel. No, that would not be responsible because I am a reformed "reading while driving" parent.  I only read at red lights now.

So here is what I do in the van when I am not driving, just waiting....

1. Read. Most of the time, I try to keep a novel in my van, so I can read snatches of it for just these occasions.

2. Pray. I have a plastic rosary in the van, along with my Book of Hours. Praying helps me keep my perspective on the important vocation of motherhood and on the fact that this stage of my life and of our children's lives is fleeting and precious.

3. Drink. No, I don't down margaritas in the car during music lessons, but right now our van is stocked with seltzer water for me and a case of Gatorade for our teen athletes.

4. Primp. The van is where I keep my makeup and nail polish.

5. Sleep. Since I'm usually sleep-deprived, I easily can nap simply by tilting the driver's seat back. If I know I need to wake up by a certain time, I set my phone's alarm.

6. Organize. I make doctor's appointments, hair appointments and call the mechanic during this down times.

7. Talk. Tuesday night I had a wonderful conversation with another mom whose son plays on the same travel team as my younger son. Her van was parked next to mine as we waited for the boys to finish their practice on the turf field. She told me all about their recent trip to Mexico; I told her about the new ropes course at the Turtle Back Zoo and we talked about the jobs our older sons would have this summer.

8. Knit. Yes, I keep a knitting bag in my van. Right now, I am knitting an orange and black pillow for the 12 year old, who is a Cincinnati Bengals fan.

9. Blog. I have written blog posts in the van, waiting for my sons. The other day, I wrote one about waiting for a baseball game to begin while waiting for a baseball game to begin.

10. Love. I call my octogenarian mother, who raised four kids and spent years of her life needle-pointing from the family station wagon.

If I decide to leave the van, here is what I do: 

1. Walk. I usually have a pedometer with me and I have been tracking my steps each day. So if the weather is decent, I go for a walk while waiting.

2.. Shop. Usually, my choice will be the grocery store or the hardware store. There is always something missing from the pantry or frig, and always lightbulbs, flower seeds or duct tape that needs buying!

I am really blessed to be a parent, to raise two boys to adulthood. Some parts of this job are tedious. But I find that if I use the time I have been blessed with wisely, I enjoy the ride much more.


  1. wow, I had no idea people spent that much time in their vans. I will have to keep these tips in mind when my kids get older. My parents didn't go to much of our games and when we turned 16, we all got drivers licenses and could drive ourselves (in rural MN, it's not that big of a deal!) I balk when I have to drive 15 minutes away now. I like to keep all my trips close by, but I'm sure that will change when the kids get older.

  2. It depends, I think, on where you live and what your children become interested in. Some friends, like the one I mention at the start, never have done much driving because their children's activities are close to home - within walking or cycling distance. Our sons' activities happen to be farther away...We didn't even own a van until about four years ago.....!