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The unsung joys of being a carpool parent

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Mary Knox Merrill/Staff Photo

(Read caption) During carpool hour after classes end at ICS, Jimmy Bridges (left) helps his daughter Marley (pink backpack) and friend Owen Capella (rolling backpack) into the car while holding daughter Sawyer, Decatur, Ga., Sept. 23, 2008.

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I’m in the driving stage of motherhood. With three kids, I spend so much time behind the wheel that the driver’s seat of my minivan has molded to perfectly fit the shape of my ever-expanding behind. Because I work from home, and am thus freed from punching a time clock or being chained to an office chair, I drive not only my children, but everyone else’s too. Seldom is the day when I pull up to the curb of the junior high and pick up only my own kid. Usually one or two other teens tumble into the back as well. And although I occasionally resent being everyone’s go-to gal, driving around a gaggle of girls does present fabulous eavesdropping opportunities.

Usually, the kids forget I’m there, since I am, after all, only the bus driver. I hear snippets of conversation about friends, teachers, and classes. More importantly, I catch the rhythm of their banter. Hearing the jokes, sarcasm, and even the slang is a great help in later interpretations of my own kids’ conversation. The pecking order also becomes obvious by listening in.

But the most interesting rides are those times when I am driving only one of my three children. Twice a week, my teen and I spend an hour and a half together driving back and forth to her evening fencing lessons. There is something about being cocooned in a moving vehicle that encourages confidences. Freed from the inevitable interruptions and comments of her younger siblings, she talks. And talks. Sometimes she relates her triumphs and tragedies, or tells me of her hopes and fears. But mostly, it’s the little things that we don’t have time to talk about in our busy days; like the scoop on schoolwork or the latest drama with her friends.

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