The car ride to practice can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, some people even drive longer. So we spend a lot of time with our children in the car. I had attended a lecture years ago that suggested that the time spent in the car was a wonderful opportunity for us to have meaningful conversations with our children. I instantly took this advice and made a rule in our car. The rule was; I would devote all of my attention to my children when we were in the car together.
I made sure that the radio was off and I didn’t answer my cell phone during the drive. At first my children loved the new attention. They felt important because I had put them first. They love jumping in the car and telling me all about their day. And I love listening to all of the amazing and important things they accomplished. It even became a joke that they would start asking me about my day. My kids and I always looked forward to the car ride home because we knew it was filled with love and we honestly cared and were interested in the day’s events.
As my children got older the car ride home became less fun and more stressful. My children’s lives had not changed, but the way I reacted to them did change. At first my daughter might have told me about a situation where she was taking a spelling test and she was sure she knew 8 out of the 10 words. At first I would respond with “8 out of 10, well that is pretty good, I am sure proud of you.” Then my responses turned into something like “8 out of 10, what words did you get wrong, you didn’t study enough, we will have to make sure we study more next time.” Then my responses turned into something like “ 8 out of 10, that is a B, if you don’t bring that B up to an A you’re grounded”. My child’s behavior and situation didn’t change but my reaction certainly did.
Eventually my children stop talking to me. I would ask questions, but they didn’t want to answer. They didn’t want to answer because they knew that I was going to ridicule them. I knew my kids didn’t want to talk anymore, so I felt the car ride would be a great time for lectures.
On the car ride to practice I would lecture them about getting certain skills, making sure they listen to the coach, and I would remind them again and again to make sure they weren’t fooling around during practice. I would give them pointers on how to fix their tumbling, I would constantly point out what they were doing wrong and how I thought they should fix it. The car ride soon became a battlefield.
It soon occurred to me that I was making my children’s lives miserable. I was adding unnecessary pressure and creating stress in their lives. When my child got in the car after a bad practice all she really wanted was a hug and a kiss from her mom. Instead of giving her what she wanted and needed, I gave her advice and told her that she couldn’t afford bad practices, or I blamed her for not trying hard enough. I turned into the very mother that I didn’t want to be and my children didn’t want me to be.
I realized that my intentions of making the car ride a place where I could really bond with my kids, was actually tearing us apart. Something needed to change, and I knew it was me.
Then one day on the drive home from practice I decided to play loud music, not talk, and have a fun ride. My kids looked at me like I was crazy, but they enjoyed the pleasant ride home. For weeks all I would do is play music. I played music on the way to school and practice and on the way home. The car ride soon became something that my children started to look forward to again.
After a while my children wanted to tell me about their days on the car ride home. They wanted to tell me about all the neat stuff they learned. I wanted to make sure that this time instead of trying to fix their problems, or try to control their behavior, or ridicule them for not being perfect…that I would just listen to them. I listened to their stories. There were times when I wanted to speak my mind, but I didn’t, I just listened. And they kept talking.
Now my kids tell me everything, good and bad. And they know that when they tell me their stories that I will not judge or ridicule them. They know that I will listen. They know that if they have a bad workout that I will be there for them. After all, I am their mom and not their coach. Moms are supposed to mom and the coaches are there to coach. That is what we pay the coaches to do anyway. Our car rides are fun again and my relationship with my girls is better than ever. Sometimes they talk so much, that I can’t get them to stop.