The idea of a Sunday drive may seem old fashioned with no discernible reason. In fact, driving anywhere without an intention probably seems silly, considering how busy we are, not to mention a waste of gas. But the next time you and your child have nothing to do, consider taking a drive. Alternatively, if you are driving somewhere, consider taking the long way. You will soon realize the gallon of gas and time invested is priceless.
History: In the 1920’s, the car was seen as an opportunity to take leisurely drives with no destination. During these drives, families spent time together, observing the world they cruised through while catching up with one another. As the decades passed, the car lost its place on the list of family activities, as other forms of entertainment came into our world and steered us in different directions. Traditional Sunday drives became antiquated.
Flash forward to today: As my children grew and became eligible for the front passenger seat, I noticed something. And I am not talking about the newfound conflict over shotgun (we simply take turns). I am talking about talking. Conversation. Dialogue. Heart-to-hearts. And sometimes just chitchat, streaming conversation, but conversation nonetheless.
Quiet: For those of you who feel like you have a constant shadow following you around, that shadow fades as your children age. You find yourself in quiet rooms, where the quiet no longer worries you. Doors close upstairs. While extending goodnights, you will feel like you never really talked to your child that day. You may have shared the everyday, “How did school go, do you have homework, and can you put your laundry away?” Reflecting on these nights, I sadden, realizing I missed a day of real conversation with my child. While we always prioritize family dinners, one-on-one conversation doesn’t always happen.
The Magic: The front passenger seat provides a sanctuary for one-on-one conversations. When my son met the legal requirements to sit in the front seat, something magical happened. These magical moments then began with my daughter. Conversations that might have been too awkward for the dinner table or around others started happening. During drives to sports practices, school, stores, and friends’ houses, we started to have countless vulnerable conversations. All the conversations that either you or your child would deem as awkward became easy in the car. And from there, they became even easier outside of the car. What started out as just a drive, ended in a glorious destination. As parent and child, we arrived together in so many important, necessary places. I think about what if we never took some of those drives.
Why? I have silently reflected on these amazing opportunities for discussion many times. In fact, these moments fill my heart with such emotion that they stay with me. In the car, you and your child are both facing forward. Side by side. Maybe on some levels, you become more like equals sitting upfront: there is no hierarchy determined by seat position. Sometimes music plays, adding a comforting distraction. Then the magic begins to happen. Thoughts are shared, thoughts that have been lingering on the tip of their tongue for days, weeks and maybe months. And thoughts are shared back while still looking ahead. The absence of eye contact takes away the spotlight, the vulnerability that both parent and child normally feel if facing one another.
The Key: I like to think of the car key as a key to some of my children’s thoughts. We have had countless bonding moments during our drives. We have laughed, cried, laughed until we cried, contemplated, shared, and asked questions. The beautiful thing is most of these car talks happen very organically, at least on my part. I sometimes plan a discussion for the car, but mostly they just happen. I have wondered if my children ever plan to save a discussion for the car, but find I don’t need to ask. I have never drawn attention towards our car talks. I don’t want these mobile conversations to ever end. I also don’t want them to ever feel like we can’t just be. Quiet moments are beautiful when they are pure.
My daughter recently said to me, “Mom I really like road trips with you. I can talk to you without anyone else distracting you.” I would add iPhone distractions are gone as well. It’s just us: our thoughts and time. And what do kids really want from us? Time. They want our attention. This amounts to love. The world we live in today challenges that dynamic, so we have to be intentional in carving it out. In closing, it doesn’t have to be a Sunday, just don’t make it a “one day”. Grab the keys, put away your phone, and go for a drive with your child and experience the magic.