My family and I spend lots of time in the car, as I’ve detailed in previous posts. The average American spends 540 hours a year in a vehicle – that’s almost a month. We’re probably right in there somewhere. Instead of railing against the injustice of it all, I’ve decided to embrace and celebrate Life in the Car. I changed my lens from Life-in-the-Car-as-mild-annoyance to Life-in-the-Car-as-opportunity. Having done so, I’ve realized there are plenty of reasons I actually love my Life in the Car. Here are three of them:
#1 – Big Ideas
Do you ever wonder why people often do some of their best or most creative thinking in the shower? It has something to do with the relaxation, the white noise, performing routine activities almost on auto-pilot. Driving has some of the same characteristics. It is also a right-brain activity, due to its spatial reasoning requirements. Add in a little monotony for those long hauls. Breakthrough ideation probably won’t happen if you’re fighting traffic or navigating tricky parking situations, but driving on the highway for a period of time seems to allow other parts of my brain to work on problems I’m wrestling with and then ideas just start bubbling up. In fact, while I usually do a lot of local driving, last week I had an hour drive on the highway to deliver samples of Cargo® Tissues to area preschools. Only a few minutes after getting on the interstate, I had three big ideas for my business – I usually aspire to three big ideas a week. I found myself thinking “I should plan more of these outings, for the idea generation alone!” When you find yourself having big ideas in the car, make sure to have a way to capture them – voice memos on your phone, for instance – before they slip through your fingers as you put the car in park.
#2 – Talk Time with My Kids
Usual questions on the rides to and from school include: How was your day? Who did you sit with at lunch? Who did you play with at recess? What do you have for homework? These basic and well circumscribed questions are an important part of my relationships with my children. They keep me on the pulse of their daily lives and help focus our next few hours. In addition, I may hear a report of a social conflict from that day: Johnny called me a name, or Suzy didn’t want so-and-so to play with us and I didn’t have the courage to speak up. I take advantage of the drive time to create a teachable moment, helping my kids develop the skills to respond differently next time.
Longer rides give me the opportunity to dig deeper, ask them bigger questions: How are you feeling about school? Are you feeling settled in to our new house and town? Experts say that not having to make eye contact with your parent (as in times when everyone is looking straight ahead) is one of the best ways for older children to open up to their parents. Especially as children reach adolescence, the chance to talk to a parent not under the direct gaze of said parent can help keep open the lines of communication, essential support for kids when they need reassurance in the face of social angst, clarifications on the birds and the bees, reaffirmation of parental and family love, and other delicate and important topics.
#3 In-flight Entertainment
For the longest of our drives, I actually plan what I call our in-flight entertainment. Listening to audiobooks with our children has been a great joy for me over the past fourteen years. We take lots of road trips over school vacations and that gives us plenty of time to tackle great books that my kids might otherwise not read. All of my boys are voracious readers, but realistically they were never going to pick up the Little House on the Prairie series, nine or ten books that loom large in my memories of childhood. So we listened to them during drive time and now my kids talk about Laura Ingalls, the sod house on Plum Creek, the locusts that walked over their house, and Long Winter and how Almanzo’s wheat saved them. We’ve enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, some older classics such as Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island, and many more in the same way. I love the fact that our kids and I now have the shared history of these great stories which we weave into our daily lives.
What do you love about your Life in the Car?