I remember the very first carpool I was in. My oldest son, two years old, was entering half-day pre-school. We were very pleased with our choice of pre-school, but we were stumped as to how we were going to get him there and back. Our wonderful nanny at the time did not yet have her driver’s license, and we both worked full-time in the opposite direction.
Somehow we learned about people in our neighborhood whose children were also attending this pre-school, and we figured out a carpool. I remember crying as I was trying to sketch out how this was all going to work – it just felt overwhelming and new and undoable.
Of course, it eventually all worked out, and except for one day when one of the fathers in the carpool forgot to pick the kids up (yes, I still remember that) it all ran pretty smoothly for the year. After that year, things start to blur a bit as to how we got our son to pre-school, but I think our nanny finally learned how to drive, and eventually, when my younger kids were going, I was also working at home as a consultant and could drive them as well.
So that oldest son is now at college and no longer in need of a carpool. In fact, I haven’t driven him anywhere for years. He was never involved in team sports, and so the clubs and activities he chose were all at school and accessible. And because he is so independent, he chose to find his own way all these years – via metro, bus, car and foot.
But, as they so often do in parenthood, the tides are once again changing, and I am about to enter my next phase of parenting. Call it the Sports Carpool phase. And I am already starting to feel those tears of overwhelmed-ness well up again.
My daughter has just made the high school field hockey team (yay!) My younger son is on the same soccer team he has been on for years, which practices several neighborhoods away. He also has moved into the next level of religious school, which meets on Sunday evenings instead of during religious services on Saturday morning. And he is trying out for a more serious (and travel-focused) baseball team for the spring.
At the moment, I have three carpools I need to set up for fall activities. And since my husband gets home from work after the carpool carriage turns back into a pumpkin, the weekday trips are all on me, even though I work full time too.
I far prefer carpooling with friends and people I know well than strangers, and fortunately, mostly that’s what our carpools will be comprised of. But I still hate carpooling. I hate being beholden to other people’s schedules. I hate worrying about making a switch when my schedule changes (which happens often in my work.) I hate the Excel spread sheets, the constant checking to see who does what when, and the worry that something will go awry.
However, I also love carpools, for the very same reasons I hate them. They give me the chance to be more flexible in my work schedule, and not always have to be home for the soccer pickup. I like the people I carpool with, and am grateful to them for their willingness to pick up slack when I can’t. And I appreciate the fact that we all work together to make this work for all of us.
As my daughter begins her high school sports career (8:00 pm games in Gaithersburg, anyone?) and my obligation to shuttling her around ramps up, and my son’s sports intensify as well, I am seeing the trajectory of the next six years of my life unfold before me.
There will be carpools aplenty. There will be many, many games that I get to see, and some that I will miss. There will be close calls on getting to practice on time, and missed carpool appointments. There will be bundling up in the cold and sweating in the heat on the sidelines. There will be time after time after time that I will have to calibrate and recalibrate the delicate dance of work and kids.
And then, in a blink, it will be all over. Permanently.
As I was walking this morning and fretting about the challenges of the carpools and worrying about how I was possibly going to make my work schedule fit around this new framework, I stopped and realized that all it needed at the moment was a deep breath.
It will all work out. It always does. And as I have had to do many times over my parenting years, I had to remind myself that my priorities are straight. I have six years left in which to be a part of my children’s lives at home. Six years. And when my youngest child strides across the stage on his high school graduation day, I refuse to be wondering if I could have sent one more email, gotten out one more work proposal, spent one more hour at my office on … anything.
Instead, I will be cheering him on, and happy that I spent my parenting years navigating the constant maelstrom between work and family. And driving that carpool for as long as I need to.
Image by Lady Madonna via Flickr