Stopped at a traffic light behind a car equipped with a drop-down DVD screen I could see Disney’s Frozen playing. It was 7:30 a.m. so I suspected that Mom or Dad was on the way to childcare to drop off their little ones before work. Two thoughts came to mind:
1. That movie-playing-ability-at-a-finger’s-touch would have certainly come in handy when my children were small.
2. That movie-playing-ability-at-a-finger’s-touch was robbing that parent of potential quality time.
I am no stranger to chaotic car rides. Traveling with three children under the age of five nearly necessitated the supernatural growth of third arm to pick up dropped pacifiers, separate dueling toddlers and calm a crying preschooler all while keeping one hand on the steering wheel. Later, traveling with three teenagers under the age of eighteen offered special opportunities designed for my personal and spiritual character development such as enduring three simultaneous eye rolls without bursting into anger and careening into an oncoming car.
Still, there is something to be said for being conversationally engaged on the way to and from wherever you might be going. When my children were little we didn’t just talk, we sang just about everywhere we went. Sometimes they were just silly songs to release energy. Other times there were songs to imprint God’s word on their hearts.
When we talked, we talked about where we were going. “Yes, Mommy is lost again, but don’t worry. We’ll get there eventually.”
What was expected of them once we got there. “Do not ask me to buy you gum when we get to the check out. It’s not going to happen.”
And of course, encouragement and praise. “You did such a great job today. I am so proud of you.”
As my kids grew into teenagers they would often feel free to open up about things when my eyes were on the road and not on them. I remember a conversation I had when both of my girls were in the car and the oldest told me that one of her classmates was pregnant. The conversation that followed was heartfelt and honest in a way that we all felt comfortable without the potential of embarrassing eye-contact.
Allowing your child to zone out while watching a movie for the umpteenth time is a tantalizing temptation for tired parents. If I’d had the option when my kids were growing up I am sure I would have had the occasion to use it.
However, as the mother of three amazing grown children I know that the time sphere of influence you have as a parent is precious and limited. When we are over-scheduled with before and after school responsibilities, community functions and church activities, driving in the car can offer some bonus one-on-one interaction if we choose it to be.
I know there will be times when we are rushed and irritated that conversations will be limited to “Stop touching your brother.” or “Don’t make me pull this car over!” But if we always allow our children to be anesthetized by the power of a singing snow queen we miss a unique opportunity.
The opportunity that uninterrupted time offers us to get to know our children better, share ourselves with them and truly train up our children in the way they should go.
And that can be the real blessing along the journey.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6