When it comes to parenting—let’s face it, we’re all doing the best we can. And often that means some epic fails along the way. Or maybe that’s just me? Either way, indulge me for a hot minute...
So, every once in a while, between a string of parenting mishaps, outta the blue, an inspired moment of pure brilliance hits me and makes me feel like parent-of-the-year. That happened recently and I want to share all the good feels with you in hopes that it will help in your parenting adventure too. The thing is, it’s so simple and obvious—but in all honesty, it just hadn’t occurred to me. And maybe you’re missing out on this big revelation too.
As the designated carpool driver for my kids, I’ve always considered the school commute as a bonus opportunity to bond with them. When I was growing up, I said sayonara to my mom and dad in the morning and walked to the school bus stop. I didn’t see them again until after they came home from work. So, I treasure that extra 20-30 minutes I have with my children each morning and afternoon. I’ve come to realize that they grow up fast, especially when we’re not around.
my heightened expectations for what those car rides could be, and what they actually are—don’t usually align. In my “mom dreams,” my kids and I engage in deep philosophical conversations about the difficulties they encountered that day, or share a hearty laugh about some silly situation. Maybe they wow me with some amazing fact they learned in history or science. But we are actually conversing. It’s not just me peppering them with questions.
The reality, however, is a smidge different. My enthusiastic questions are often met with silence.
So tell me something interesting! Did anything fun happen today?
How was your Math quiz?
Did you take your math quiz?
So, what did you think?
These long silences punctuated with monosyllabic responses have been a common occurrence in our drives to and from school the last several years. Otherwise, when it’s occasionally not silent, I find that the kids get into the car and begin squabbling.
Roll up your window! Mom, he’s got the window open and I’m really co—
NO, it’s hot in here. I need air! Moooom, tell her I need air.
In these instances, my level of engagement is reduced to the role of zookeeper at feeding time. Good times. But that was all sooo last month.
This month, things are already different. Why? I warned you—it’s simple, but so effective. And here it is—this month, I’ve started turning off the radio.
In the past, we listened to some of the banter of the morning DJ’s on a Christian radio station, or enjoyed the background music of some of our favorite playlists. It’s not like we were rocking out like those teenagers who turn up the base way too loud. It was just the radio playing in the background. But the presence of that extra noise, though relatively quiet, broke our concentration, creating a serious breakdown in communication.
Since I’ve made the conscious decision to turn off the extra noise, our commutes are more focused. We are able to hear each other without distraction. We’ve had some substantial back and forths—exchanges, even! Yesterday, my son asked me to tell him how my day was. Pinch me! It’s not like our conversations are ever going to rival Socrates and his intellectual followers, but we are communicating in a more significant way. We’re making an effort to get to know one another better. And that, my friends, is a parenting victory in my book!
Connecting with one another throughout our days is an essential step to building trust and communication in the family dynamic. Who knew it was as easy as turning off the radio?! We live in a noisy world and it’s all too easy to block out our loved ones in favor of all that mind-numbing racket. As a family of very different individuals, we are turning up the possibilities for more bonding while enduring long carlines, and too much traffic. Now I leave carpool karaoke to late night TV hosts. In my minivan, we prefer to communicate. Honk!
Do you have any suggestions for building communication in your family? We’d love to tap into some of your parenting wisdom. Let us know in our private Facebook group, Thrive Community by Families of Character. It’s open to all!
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