As parents we spend an enormous amount of time in cars. Sports, practices, parties, road trips and to and from school. I have spent hours in the car with my children. When my kids were babies I would drive miles around the same streets over and over to calm them. It was almost magical how a quiet, night ride, would eventually rock them to sleep. Now that my son and daughter are older, there are times I find it is still our sanctuary. Or at least I find I can get them to talk when they are forced into a confined space with me. At home, everyone does their own thing, in their own room. After a few disgruntled refusals to hang out with Mom and an ominous threat to disconnect Wi-Fi for the weekend, I can get them in the car. Regardless if it’s a hike, to the park, or a road trip, we are together and it’s my chance to find out what is going on in their lives. I would be lying if I said we had wonderful, engaging conversations every car ride. We absolutely do not.
One particular road trip comes to mind when I specifically told them “I will not take you camping ever again!” They were only about 6 and 8 years old and I basically told a fib. Of course, I took them camping again. I’ve also specifically and harshly told my children to “…never talk or touch each other in the car again!”
So yes, there have been torturous times in the car, but good times too.
I don’t obviously dig for information, however, some open-ended questions help.
Me: “Tell me about the book in book club.”
Response: “It’s good.”
Me: “Which play in practice was the hardest for you?”
Me: “Where do you think would be fun to visit this summer?”
Response: “Meh, doesn’t matter.”
It becomes a battle to see how few of words they can use as an answer! My son and I fell into a competition of creative ways he can answer open ended question with a single word. It actually became humorous.
Seriously, I have discovered crushes on a girl or a boy, listened to difficult stories as my daughter cries about being teased, and schooled my son about the existence of some of the best music in history and justified my existence of a Gen-Xer.
I think the most important thing to remember when attempting to connect with children is that they may not want to open up when you are ready to talk. Connecting doesn’t have to be a deep conversation about friends, their life or future. It can be a game of punch buggy or “Yellow car!” in the midst of a silent car ride. Everyone argues for a moment about who called it first, add up points, and then go back to our own thoughts, music, or book being read. Sometimes that is all I need to feel a deep, unconditional love with my kids. Knowing they laughed with me, trusting to talk with me when they are ready. The rides will get fewer and soon they will both be driving. That will be a new adventure for us all! These new conversations, I’ll get to experience from the passenger seat.