February 2, 2015

Every Mother's Dream

It’s every mothers dream. I wish I could bottle it.  Sell it.  When it works, its priceless.  After all, it’s time saving, convenient, and possibly life-altering.  What mother doesn’t want to be included in a great car pool?  I’ve been fortunate to be offered rides from some of the greatest, selfless women living in the western suburbs of Chicago.  More typically though, I’ve been left at the curb, squinting thru the tinted, minivan windows wondering why other mothers don't consider car pooling the most important survival mechanism of parenting.

To be fair, not every parent can accommodate the number of kids in our family into their automobiles. After Curly was born there were a few years when Coach and I were forced to drive separately to distant family functions because we couldn’t safely cram the whole crew into the minivan.  Nearby destinations were different.  We utilized the highly illegal, but ever popular ‘double buckle’ option.  This choice was accompanied by continuous moaning, complaining, and grunting.  Thus. . .  SHORT distances.  Typically though, not all of my kids need to be at the same activity at the same time.  Translation:  I am always on the prowl for friendly, willing drivers to grab a kid of mine one week while I grab theirs the following week.  Despite my offers to drive half the time, I often end up juggling the transporting of kids in different directions because no one jumped at the ‘car pool’ suggestion.  Understandably, many moms who might be able to squeeze a kid in their backset have plans to stop somewhere on the way home, or attend another offspring’s game.  Bummer.  As I have discovered over the years, there are countless parents who avoid living the dream.  I don't mean to imply that driving my kid around is dreamy, just that it is perhaps time saving and sanity preserving.

Laddie attended afternoon preschool back in the day when Eddie was a toddler and Tetonka was about to enter the world (weighing in at 10 lbs 3 oz, innocent bystanders kept expecting his appearance months before he was born and never hesitated to tell me how positively enormous I looked long before his December due date).  Coach and I drove much smaller cars then we do currently.  A neighbor with a son in the same class agreed to carpool with me.  I pointed out that once the baby arrived, I would no longer be able to fit neighbor Davey in my car because all available rear row seating would be occupied by Laddie, Eddie, and the monster growing within.  Davey’s mom and I hatched a plan.  I would drive the first half of the year and once the baby arrived, she would take over the driving.  It wasn’t exactly even-steven, but she insisted that it would be perfectly acceptable to her.  Trust me, there was much rejoicing.

When Eddie enrolled in preschool, he made a best friend, Carl, on the first day.  Carl’s mom, Shari, as it turns out, was the bomb.  Carl was the youngest of four boys.  Shari felt my pain as I waddled around in my well worn maternity clothes expecting Mini.  She insisted on picking Eddie up from preschool.  Period.  No strings.  No switching off.  I suggested sharing the responsibility, but she simply pointed out that she was going to the preschool pick up line anyway.  I countered with the fact that she wouldn’t have to ‘go to the preschool line’ if I drove sometimes.  No more discussion necessary as she offered a friendly wave while backing down my driveway.  I may have wept.

Eventually we did purchase a minivan.  The gang was still fairly young, so they weren’t involved in too many extracurricular activities.  There was a heavenly, free bus service that delivered the boys home after parochial school, and we typically hung out at home while the younger guys napped.  When Eddie was in first grade, he asked me why I had failed to sign him up for Irish dancing classes.  Oh.  I didn’t remember agreeing to that, but I found a class in the next town over that a girl named Maureen in Laddie’s class was attending.  Before I signed him up, I learned more about the class from Maureen's mom, Ms. Katy, who actually assisted the dancing instructor.  The class was very low key.  He loved it.  Every Wednesday I disrupted naps, loaded youngsters into the minivan, and dragged along a bag of entertaining books and toys in the crammed car.  Because the bus would have dropped them off too late, I then grabbed the boys from school and drove to Irish dancing.  I followed Ms. Katy from the school parking lot to the dancing class parking lot.  Odd, frustrating, counter intuitive.  Choose the word that best fits.  

It pained me to interfere with nap time.  The precious few minutes of the day when the house was relatively quiet.  Typically during this afternoon siesta I accomplished something or laid down for a rest myself.  By this time Reggie was the baby and Curly was expanding by leaps and bounds in my spacious belly.  My brother’s daughter,  who was Mini’s age, joined our daily adventures because I babysat for her while her parents worked.  Full car, dizzy head, nutty life, no car pool.  I approached Ms. Katy about possibly giving Eddie a lift to dancing right from school, since she attended the classes each week because of her role as assistant teacher.  She agreed to drive him the next week.  Once.  I waited a week or so, and I approached her again.  I was careful to use the ‘car pool’ term.  She explained to me that she didn’t like to car pool.  She had had a bad experience once.  I tried to wrap my brain around what she was saying.  Who doesn’t like car pools?  Ms. Katy, who was as serious as a heart attack, didn’t.  She rarely smiled, wore her hair in a very short cropped style, and could easily have been mistaken for a nun.  She never expanded about her bad experience.  My imagination created a few possible details.  Her kids arrived late, the driver swore a lot, there was a car accident?  I will never know.  Just as she will never know how delicious the baked goods were that I would have supplied her in exchange for a ride for Eddie.

The additional car pool-refusal stories involving another Catholic School mom, who is also my neighbor, are so plentiful that they required a separate blog post.  If you can stomach the irony of the situation, I invite you to read that post as well.  Title:  Car pool denials - neighbor style.

After years of paying tuition for the kids to attend Catholic School, Coach and I determined that we could no longer afford it.  Laddie was graduating and preparing for public high school, and Curly was about to enter the 4 year old preschool program.  With no end in sight to the tuition bills, we pulled the kids in August of 2012 and transferred to the public school.  Fortunately, our school district is outstanding, and we've had a great experience there.  The junior high is only three blocks from our home while the other building is a short drive away.  Since the transfer, I have never struggled to score my kids a ride when I am in a pinch.  Most of the time the junior high kids walk to school, but other parents are willing to pick my kids up in the morning or after school, if it is too cold to walk and I'm not home. 

Eddie is on three basketball teams.  (I must have been dazed and confused when I agreed to this nightmare.)  When practice ends for his school team, he can easily walk home, but he typically gets flagged down by another parent who drops him off at our door.  Two of his school buddies, Oliver and Ken, are on the school team with him and one of the travel teams as well.  Coach and I typically steer clear of travel teams, but Eddie is able to play on the team thanks in part to the willingness of Oliver and Ken's parents to help us transport him.  We drive to some of the practices and attend the games that work into our schedule, but these moms insist that with our hectic schedule they are happy to grab Eddie despite our inferior car pool involvement.  My guilt over not doing my share has been fueled by Eddie's teenage remarks that Oliver and Ken's moms drive him more than we do.  I have shared this issue with the both moms.  They only laugh and assure me that with two kids each and the close proximity we live to each other, they can handle giving Eddie a lift.  Oliver's mom pointed out that Oliver lives at home, but her daughter is away at college.  She insists that Oliver enjoys Eddie's company on the long drives to and from games.  I can't say enough about how kind and accommodating these women are to incorporate us into their car pool despite our weak return commitment. 

Someday my kids will be older.  Most of them will have their licenses.  College dorms will house some of them.  Reggie and Curly will be living at home requiring occasional rides.  At this juncture in my life, I predict that I will become known as the most dedicated car pool mama to ever operate a minivan. 

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