The Carpool Chronicles

I love a good reason to get “worked up”. Find me a cause or injustice (perceived or not), and I’ll revel in it like some people enjoy a good meal. It’s not that I enjoy getting angry…I don’t. I enjoy the sense of self-righteous fury—the immediate high—that comes from being wronged. And, since I am a sinful person, I feel wronged (whether true or imagined), a lot.

This cannot be more clearly seen than when I am behind the steering wheel. Our sleepy little rural town is full of sleepy rural drivers. I’m always amazed by how many people I encounter on the road that really don’t have anywhere else to be, other than being on that particular stretch of road, enjoy the slight breeze wafting through their open windows as the amble along at 15 miles per hour. Now I understand that this may be a generational thing; my dad took my great-aunt out driving on Sunday afternoons. But some of these mechanical sloths are my age… and I really want to know what kind of right-living they’ve done, that allows them to drive somewhere and not have any concept of time or depth perception or nighttime vision. Because I need some of that in my life.

The majority of my point B’s from my home are the girls’ schools. I am blessed to be in two separate carpool lines this year (please envision me saying this with a tight-lipped smile and voice that progressively pitches higher). Thankfully both schools have almost military-precision pickup systems. They work beautifully as long as no one with original sin is allowed in the area. 

I am the one with flames shooting out of my exhaust pipe as I rip the emergency brake and jerk my steering wheel, executing a flawless drift into the last slot in line before Bea’s K3 class pick up ends or Gracie gets sent to aftercare. I’m late because God likes to laugh and He enjoys sending me slow-driving, right-living people between the house and the school. Every. Day. 

[I’m going to take a sidebar and quickly list carpool actions that get me “worked up”. Initially I was like, “Oh! I’m going to write an entire blogpost on things that tick me off in carpool lines!”, and then I realized, “Oh! I won’t have any friends if I do that!”. So here are a few things that make me shake my head at you (which is the most passive aggressive, non-confrontational  attack I can do from my driver’s seat):

  • Putting your car in park every time the carpool line pauses.
  • Allowing more than one car length consistently between you and the car in front of you. Two words: butterfly effect. 
  • Requiring your child to recite the Gettysburg Address prior to hopping out of the car at drop-off. Full disclosure: Gracie loves to dawdle, and I love chatting with Bea’s teachers, so this is the pot calling the kettle black, here. On good mornings, the inside of my van resembles the beginning of a paratrooper mission, and I’m yelling “Go! Go! Go!” as I slide the door open. On bad mornings I will often loosen my seatbelt, flip around and physically push Gracie out of the car.

Ok that’s really only three things. I don’t feel quite so bad about myself now.]

So God, in His infinite wisdom, knowing that asinine drivers on the road wouldn’t humble me, gave me the trump card of humility: passengers. Mainly, small passengers with big eyes, ears, and mouths. Eyes to see me get in a tizzy over a carpool faux-pas, ears to hear my reaction, and mouths to repeat it. 

Years ago, Gracie repeated an oath I yelled while missing an exit on the interstate (“oh WAMMIT!”), and I swore (ha! Pun!) to temper my language when the girls were in the car. So I started replacing certain words with kinder ones, but kept the angry sentiment behind them. Hence, the big curse word in our family is “friend”. In response to an affront on the road, I will yell, “Whatcha doing there, FRRRRIIIEEENNND?!?!” with enough vehemence filled in that endearment to skin a cat. Or the phrase I use almost every day, “COME ON, FRRRIEEEND!!!!!!!” to the individual going 20 miles under the 30 mph speed limit. 

But as children are apt to do, they repeat everything they hear, including the emotion behind it. Last week, Bea was mad that the drive-through line at Wendy’s was going slow, and began yelling “Come on! FWWWWIEEENDS!!! COME ON!”. 

So even though I think I’m making the correct parenting choice to change my actions, I forget that I have to address the reason (emotion) behind those actions… otherwise I still have a car full of angry women, spouting hate hidden in terms of endearment. As much as I enjoy getting worked up, I really don’t enjoy being around the three little mirrors images of myself, ranting about how the world is out to make their day worse. Which shows me that I’m not enjoyable to be around, either, when I get worked up. Because the only difference between my three year old throwing a tantrum in the Wendy’s line, and me in the carpool line, is that I can pronounce the “R” in “friends.”

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