I remember when my kids were young and our evenings were spent with them playing with the neighbors’ kids in the street.
While they rode bikes or rollerskated, I chatted with the other parents of the neighborhood and went in and out as I got dinner ready.
I usually had a glass of white wine on the counter that I’d sip between chopping, stirring and running out to check on them. I thought I was so busy.
One evening during this season of child rearing, I saw a news special on moms, most residing in major cities, who were literally living out of their cars in the evenings.
Their kids were involved in play auditions and practices in New York City, or private violin lessons in San Francisco. I was appalled at their mini vans full of snacks, homework and garbage.
There was one mom who regularly ordered pizza to their family car so they could eat dinner. I couldn’t believe how preposterous this seemed to me.
And even more preposterous? The absence of the evening glass of wine missing from the picture.
From one season to the next
Of course, things change. They always do.
It’s that way with parenting. As soon as I think I’ve figured something out and I’ve got a rhythm, new things come along.
So we adjust and find ourselves in a new season. Just like that.
One hour of practice and one early-morning match per week of rec soccer turns to travel soccer. Living in a new state for this phase means I’m travelling 40 minutes on icy roads to indoor soccer matches in burbs I’ve never even heard of.
This California girl no longer drives two hours to the coast to grab a clam chowder or sit and watch the waves.
Instead, I’m booking hotel rooms in Iowa for weekend tournaments.
I’m also now the proud parent of a ski racer. (No, I don’t have the bumper sticker). This means I stand on the side of hills for hours in subzero temps, just to snap a pic on my iPhone that I hope will be clear enough to share with her grandparents. (Or maybe just to prove to my 12-year-old daughter that I actually stood out there and watched her.)
Practicing for life
My girl is really independent and self-sufficient. While, as her mom, I could easily feel pushed aside,
I actually find these to be admirable traits.
Every ski day, without my prompting, she gets her skis and boot bag sorted. She knows she needs her season pass card, her gloves and helmet. She has her water bottle for practice filled and wears her base layer to school — ready for a quick change after school.
Thanks to this extra activity, I get a chance to see a new side of her, a side I don’t often see at home amongst the daily parenting gripes about her leaving socks all over the house, or her forgetting to rinse out her cereal bowl.
I see how thorough of an adult she’ll be — how she thinks through details.
Partnering with parents
Through my daughter’s extracurricular activities, I’ve discovered a precious gift in my life.
This gift is called carpooling.
Her friends’ moms and I always work it out one way or another. This helps us avoid sitting alone in our cars; and it gives me at least a chance of getting dinner on the table.
Not only is this wonderful for my time management, but it also gives me a sense of community. I know that I’m in this with some great ladies. My sense of belonging is enhanced tenfold.
And not having to order pizza directly to a vehicle is a plus, too.
Back in the car
And, hey, I actually like it.
Right now, for me, nothing beats driving down the road listening to pop music I’d never choose, looking in my rearview mirror and seeing four sets of messy braids beneath pompom ski hats.
Their cheeks are pink from cold. Their laughter is loud.
It makes this once-crazy driving thing crazy fun.
Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 12 and 15. Send comments, questions and story ideas to [email protected].