Q: What Can I Do When We’re Always In The Car?

We have a large family, and the dynamic is so very different. It seems like we’re spending most of the time getting the kids to their various activities and not a lot of coming together any more, aside from meals. 

WW-MinivanWe have been through this at different times ourselves, and frankly, it doesn’t take a large family to find yourself recruited as Mom’s Taxi Service or driving the Minivan Express. It’s a common problem in a restless, mobile society, but we who are trying to live with forethought and intentionality have to find an answer to that challenge.

The first question is always “What are we trying to accomplish here, and does this fit into our mission?” Sometimes we over-commit because we have many interests but a hard time saying no–to ourselves, or with our children. On the other hand, there may be a special opportunity or a needed activity which simply requires lots of time. Maybe a child has a special gift or talent and a limited chance to study with a particular teacher or coach, or they may need a class or activity as a prerequisite for something important in the future. The important thing is to be sure you’re not using too much time and energy for activities which don’t have much value, or distract you from more important goals.

Can you fold activities or schedules together? We have been blessed to find a homeschool sports program which schedules different age groups to practice at the same time, on the same set of fields. That wasn’t possible when we tried rec-league sports many years ago — three players, three different age groups, three fields at different parks and school yards. Sometimes you might interest multiple children in the same activity so they all go to art lessons or basketball practice or karate at the same time — which means less unproductive time while the whole family waits for one child to finish. Sometimes it’s possible to schedule different activities in coordinating time blocks — like scheduling one child’s half-hour piano lesson inside the time another is taking a two-hour auto repair class. It will take a lot of flexibility and creative thinking to make this work, though.

Don’t miss the opportunities to spend time in your kids’ worlds. Youth sports survive on parent volunteers and coaches. We’ve been blessed to find common interests with our kids, like Hal joining a community orchestra to spend time with a musical son, or taking hunter safety class or Mandarin lessons with others.

Sometimes you simply have to make allowances for the busyness. One year our young son had soccer practice and violin lessons on the same afternoon, and Hal wanted to be present for both them after work. When we looked at the time and distances involved, we realized that Tuesdays simply didn’t include time for supper at home. Since we valued both activities and Hal’s involvement, too, we decided that Tuesdays would be a day to get supper from the drive-through window. If the activity is worthwhile, be realistic about what you have to do to accommodate all the things on your schedule.

Minivan headlightThere are ways to re-claim time in the car or waiting at activities. Whether it’s long distance driving like we do with our ministry, or a long commute into the office each day, or just an awful lot of errands and activities to reach, there are many ways to make car time into useful time. When we travel, we make sure the children’s schoolbooks are in the van, and we try to use the same morning hours for school time whether at home or on the Interstate. There are many audio resources which can redeem the hours; we’ve listened to the Bible for morning devotions, learned Spanish and Chinese from recorded programs, or enjoyed audiobooks for entertainment while driving (though be aware, some of the really exciting books may leave you sitting in the driveway to finish an episode or chapter before you go inside!)

Tablet PCs and smart phones have made it easier than ever to do school-related drills, catch up on home business, or entertain the youngsters while you’re in a holding pattern somewhere. You can even use a predictable time in the car for a short nap – whether the cranky one is a toddler in a booster seat, or Dad catching up from a late night at work!

The parenting years are busy years by definition, and whether we’re concerned about long hours at work, long hours in the car, or endless distractions and cries for attention, God can give us grace to discern what’s important and manage what’s unavoidable. <– tweet this>


Related Resources You May Find Helpful

Hero Tales from American History

Written by Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge to teach character to American young people. We turned it into an audiobook with sound effects because history is much better with cannon fire! Great for listening to in the car. Each story is 8-11 minutes long and each disc is one hour long.

G.A. Henty Audiobooks

We love these! Historically accurate, great fun, and focuses on the manly virtues – how can you go wrong? Increase reading comprehension by listening to these complex tales.

A House NOT Divided: Building Unity and Not Rivalry In Your Family
You’ve heard the verses and caught the vision, but what can you do to get your children on your team? Stop the bickering and rivalry and begin making memories! In this idea-packed workshop, Hal and Melanie share how to tear down obstacles and build up family unity in fun, memorable ways