Before I begin, let me just clarify that my use of “carpool” in the title might be misleading. I do not mean driving other peoples’ kids. I mean just driving my own to school, which, I guess would technically be a carpool with myself, but I only refer to it as such because the schools divide the kids according to “bus” and “carpool” at dismissal, regardless of how many moms alternate in the driving.
This is my first time sending a child to a formal elementary school for Pre-K. Whereas my others went to a local preschool, the dynamics changed and there was no longer a class available for 4-year-olds. Rather than start in another local nursery before transferring my son to an elementary school, I opted to put him in the same school as my older children, despite my hesitation of being forced to drive every day. “Join a carpool!” my friends advised, but mornings for us are hectic enough, without being required to conform to others’ schedules; my own erratic, unreliable, late children; and my lack of interest in comforting crying kids that don’t belong to me. Because mine cry enough. And there is only so much I can handle.
So I committed to driving myself. Because of the timing of the bus, and the fact that I am driving at the same time, anyway, some kids no longer need to take it, to their dismay, and they come along in the car with me and my 4-year-old son.
For years I dreaded this. “The line is so long!” other moms in various schools moaned. “It’s chaotic!” I, myself, had done camp carpool with a few others, several years ago, and it did take some time, and a lot of sweat. Although mostly, my strategy back then was come 10 minutes after dismissal begins and you won’t have to wait at all. Your kids may think their mother has abandoned them, but they get used to it after awhile. The driving itself also provided me with a nice dose of adrenaline, hoping to make it in time despite the unforeseen traffic, so that your kids don’t have to be ushered off of the carpool waiting area and into a special refuge for super-late moms so that the other staff can all leave. True story.
But surprisingly, the school carpool line is not so bad. In fact, it might be my favorite part of the day. I decided to start off the year on the right foot, and actually left the house early enough to allow for some delays and to not feel so rushed while weaving through the lanes on the highway. The reward for this was that my children were not the last ones to be dismissed, and although I did have to sit and wait, it was peaceful and stress-free. This is likely because I do not have a crying baby in the car anymore or a toddler who I must repeatedly check to see if she is awake, and then make every possible effort to maintain her state of alertness. So it was just me, alone, with a chunk of time to relax. When else in my day am I afforded that luxury?
I decided I would fill this time with something productive. I would have around 10 to 15 minutes per day waiting at dismissal, and with that time, I could actually build up to a great accomplishment. Years ago, I had purchased a ukulele and tried to learn how to play, but being that it was different from guitar, which I already knew, and I lacked extra time to be musical, this hobby was forgotten. It resurfaced when I discovered my kids were using it as a toy in their “band” and then I rescued it and put it in my car, along with a printout of some sheet music. It was small enough that I could leave it in the front seat, and pull it out to practice while sitting in the driver’s side, with the hopes that by the end of the year, I’d be ready for Carnegie Hall.
But sometimes, I get sidetracked by other activities. I can use that time to make a phone call, to catch up with a friend, to listen to an audio book or podcast, to write articles—such as this one—for The Jewish Link, to eat (and not share) chocolate-covered almonds, and I once even fell asleep. Regardless of what I choose to do, it’s “me” time, and I get to sit through it, and cherish every last moment of waiting in the line. Before the era of carpool, rarely did I stop in my afternoon hustle to think about what I wanted to do for myself, but now, I have that time carved out for me every day. It’s refreshing, relaxing, and I appreciate it.
Next year, when all of my children are on the bus, I might even miss doing carpool. I’ll have to convince my kids to miss the bus, just so I can have a chance to drive them. And if not, I’ll find another way to continue with the practice of taking a few minutes to myself to sit and relax and use my time for something productive, creative and just for me.
By Sarah Abenaim
Sarah Abenaim is a writer living in Teaneck. For help with your own writing, she can be reached at [email protected].