Has Something Come Between You and Your Children?
by Barbara Frank
Where I live, at certain times of day the roads are packed with moms taking their kids places. There are young moms with one or two little ones locked into car seats, and older moms ferrying their young teens to soccer practice or the mall.
This is nothing new. Moms have been driving their kids about town ever since the two-car family became prevalent in the 1960s. The difference is that now, many of those moms are talking on their cell phones while they drive.
It’s easy to understand why. If you must be stuck in traffic, why not make some phone calls so you feel like your time in line isn’t a total waste? A nice long chat with a friend seems like a good way to pass the time.
Meanwhile, the children in the back play with toys or video games, or watch a DVD. On good days, they entertain each other. On difficult days, they fight. The one thing they can’t do, however, is talk with Mom, because she’s on the phone.
The car is one place where cell phones have come between parents and their kids. Carrying on a phone conversation while driving with your kids is a lost opportunity, because the family car is a wonderful place for direct communication between parent and child (of any age). Some of the best conversations I had with my children over the years took place while we were driving somewhere.
Of course, when they were little, we sang in the car more than we talked. As my children grew, our repertoire morphed from simple nursery rhymes to songs from their favorite tapes and from Sunday school.
As they developed an awareness of the world around them, they began asking questions about places we drove past, and places they recognized. We still sang occasionally, but most of our car time was spent with me answering their questions.
When they reached the preteen years, like most kids, they began to crave privacy. Asking them direct questions often made them clam up. But in the car, my need to keep my eyes on the road seemed to make them feel more comfortable talking without me looking right at them.
This carried into the teenage years. At times, my teens said things that would normally startle me. But the need to pay constant attention to the road kept me from reacting too strongly, and so they’d continue to talk. I learned many things from them during our drive-time talks, things that I probably would never have gotten out of them any other way. They expressed feelings that helped me understand them, and my responses helped them understand me a little more, too.
When their friends came with us somewhere, I got to know them better by chatting with them in the car. Of course, I learned even more when the conversation between the kids didn’t include me. They seemed to forget I was there, and sometimes I heard things that made me far more well-informed than my kids realized.
A cell phone would have kept me from having those times with my children. It also would have been rude of me to have long phone conversations while my children were in the car. If you’ve ever traveled with a person who’s addicted to their phone, you know what I mean.
So if you want lots of quality time with your children, put your phone in your pocket and leave it there. Fight the temptation to call someone on it when you’re stuck in line. Instead, talk to your kids. What better use of your time can there be?
Copyright 2011 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers
Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling, an upcoming eBook series from Cardamom Publishers. Learn more at www.cardamompublishers.com. Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years. You’ll find her on the web at www.barbarafrankonline.com and www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com