Lately it seems as if Karen and I are just on the run all the time. We move kids from here to there, between my meetings and her meetings, and throw in practices on top of all of that. It becomes easy to see that we spend a lot of time in the car.
Just the other day I was driving towards work with a kid in the car and I had to stop and think, “Where am I dropping him off at? Who is picking him up?” I found myself at the stop sign in a blank state of trying to remember where we were going.
Of course this isn’t new to my family. This has happened for ages, and for the most part it is widely accepted. Heck we even call it “on the run.” As I began to think about what this looks like for my family I wondered, “What if we were more than just a taxi cab?” See, the thing about the taxi cab is that you get in them, tell them where you want to go, then get out. It is a business exchange and it’s designed to be professional as well as quick.
Can I just be honest? I don’t want that for my family.
I don’t want every car ride to be just another trip. Rather I think it’s time that we take back the precious moments spent in the car and get intentional about using them as productive time periods.
Here are my top suggestions:
1. Pray. One of the most refreshing things we do in the car is pray together. Every day on the way to school we take a moment to pray. I’ll have one of the kids open us in prayer and each of them states their request. Then finally, I’ll close us in a final prayer. It’s a great way to practice prayer, and since you’re already locked in the car no one can avoid it! Even if you don’t take your kids to school, you can pray any time of the day. (Honest, there are no rules about when you have to pray.) We often pray on the way to games or events where big things are happening.
The most rewarding part of this is hearing my children’s hearts. In some rare moments they really share something powerful. But, of course, that is usually followed up with a prayer for a dump truck or something like that. If we didn’t take the time in the car I’m not sure I would hear that moment.
2. Ask open-ended questions. Have you ever tried to get information from a ten-year-old? A six-year-old? A four-year-old? Trying to get information from my kids is a lot like watching water boil. When you stand there and watch the pot of water it feels as if it is never going to actually boil, but the minute you go to do something else it all of a sudden spills out onto the stovetop. The same thing is true with our kids! If I want information I can’t get any, and when I don’t want to talk (or I’m on the phone) I can’t stop them from talking.
What I’m learning is that the number one way to get information is to ask questions that are open-ended. For example: Did you have a good day? This is a closed question, the kid can get out of it with a simple yes or no. An open-ended question might be: What was the best part of your day? Open-ended questions in the car lead to great conversations, and great conversations lead to awesome connections.
Just remember, if you are going to ask the question, we have to stop talking long enough to listen.
3. Play. Do you know what everyone can do in the car? We can have fun. We can play. We can laugh. My favorite thing to do in the car is to have car dance parties, to turn the music up loud. To tickle my kids in the back seat. When we have fun in the car it is always more enjoyable to arrive at our location. Even if they are in a bad mood (or I am), a loud song, with everyone singing is a great way to change the climate inside the car. Music sets a great mood, and I know that if I want my kids to be in a great mood I need to lead by example.
I don’t know if our drive time will ever decrease; actually, I suspect that the drive time might only increase. Maybe if I can become a little bit more intentional, the drive time will switch in my head. Maybe it will change from drive time to family time.