Almost from the time you find out you are going to be a parent, your focus turns to driving them across town. You start looking at vehicles with doors that slide open, have more cup holders than you need, and trunk space becomes key. You spend your days lugging car seats and diaper bags and toddlers in and out of the house. It’s exhausting.
And while you get a brief reprieve when your kids are suddenly able to open that sliding door by themselves (and find that sippy cup without screaming for help while you’re driving on the highway), things get really interesting when you have teens. Not only do you start looking for cars that will fit your teen son and his man-sized friends, but you also start to feel like you spend more time in your car than you do lounging on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy.
This past summer, both of my teens were at that age where they had busy social lives and demanding work schedules. There were two of them and one of me. And guess which one spent the majority of her time in the car all summer? That’s right, me.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t complain about the constant driving.
Because, let’s be honest: juggling a work from home job, household responsibilities, and two teens’ worth of socializing on summer nights is enough to send any mom screaming for the hills.
On one particular day, my son came bounding down the stairs, practically exuberant. He was excited because a bunch of his friends had planned to get together to swim and watch movies on a hot summer day. And I admit, he caught me in the middle of a conference call on a busy work day. So my response was less than amenable.
I believe the words, “I am so sick of your social life” came out of my mouth. I’m not proud of it but it’s the truth.
In that moment, my son quietly looked at me and said, “Do you think I like having to ask for rides? Do you think I like knowing that you are annoyed all the time from driving us everywhere?” He stomped out of the room, clearly irritated at me.
It was a moment that changed how I look at driving my teens.
Because in that moment, I stopped to think about what it would be like if I had to rely on my teen to take me every place I need to be. What if I had to stop and ask my son to drive me to the grocery store? Or an exercise class? Or, what if I had to ask my daughter to drive me to my job in a major city an hour away? What if I had to catch her in just the right mood so I could convince her to take me to a restaurant to meet her dad for date night?
As I finished up my conference call, I sat quietly in my office and really thought about how I had made my teens feel when they asked me to drive them around town.
I realized that my annoyance stemmed from my day being upended. But I valued the time I spent with my kids when they were in the car with me.
- The times when we are at a stoplight and they tease me when I rock out to Jon Bon Jovi.
- The times when they open up to me about their dating life or the struggles they are facing. (It’s easier to talk to your mom when her eyes are focused on the road.)
- The times when we drive in companionable silence, the three of us under one roof, for a few precious minutes between our home and theater practice.
- The times when we have a near miss because another driver is reckless and my teen says, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me when I’m learning to drive.”
That day, when my son barreled out of the car, yelling, “Thanks, Mah!” as he dashed off for an afternoon of summer fun, I waved goodbye and glanced back at my empty backseat.
In the fading summer sun, I could almost see my toddlers, nestled and warm in their car seats, looking at board books and sucking furiously on pacifiers.
And I realized that being in the car with my teens is exactly where I need to be.
This post originally appeared on Your Teen For Parents.