I’ve come to (most of the time) love being in the car with my kids.
One day I realized that being in the car was basically the only time I get to sit down — and as a bonus, force all my kids to do the same. Yes, we eat together a lot, but meals are still full of getting up and down to get more food or to clean up a spilled drink, forcing kids to stay seated, or intensely negotiating to get them eat things that aren’t their favorite, or doing another million other things.
Of course, car rides can also be very exhausting as well because I have to listen to continuous stories or squeeze every ounce of creativity out of my brain to make up crazy games out of thin air. But they have proven to be some of the most memorable and valuable moments I have each day with my kids.
Some of the only times we are forced to be still and in one place all together are in the car. At least when your kids are young, it’s not often you can keep everyone seated in one place for more than two minutes. I love being together in one place during our rides to drop off someone at school or on the way to the store. These rare moments often lead to us having visits all together.
We have nothing else to do but visit or play games. Unless we’re on a long trip, we don’t watch shows or play electronic games in the car, so for day-to-day trips, there is not much else our kids can do in the car besides do things together. This forces upon us (in a good way) great opportunities to talk together, listen to each other, and/or make up games to play together.
We often ask each other questions, tell stories, remember past family memories, or dream about future events together. All of these help us learn more about each other and grow closer together.
We bond over laughter. Out of the necessity of entertaining ourselves during otherwise boring car rides, we end up having some of our best laughs together as a family. We’ve become very good at making up weird games to play together. As our kids are still younger, a lot of our games are super silly and simple. A favorite is someone saying, “Raise your hand if you like [something good].” Then when everyone raises their hands, the person adds something gross at the end like “after our dog licks it!” And then we all laugh and laugh.
Most of the games we think of don’t even make much sense but are super repetitive and laughter-inducing. And obviously, laughter is such a beautiful and powerful way for us to grow closer as a family.
I have their attention. Sometimes at home or out and about, it’s hard to get my kids to sit and listen to my wisdom (hard to believe, huh?!), but ironically in the car I can often share things and have conversations that my kids wouldn’t sit still for anywhere else.
I can speak truth over and encourage them. Of course, we can speak beautiful things over our kids anywhere, but again, there is something about them being buckled in and stuck sitting in your presence that presents an extra great opportunity to tell our kids how wonderful they are and in which ways they are special and unique.
I also love saying short, simple prayers of blessing out loud over my kids while we are in the car.
I can relax and give them my attention. I’m a chronic “doer.” It’s hard for me to be still and relax, as I like to be accomplishing things. So it can even be a real challenge for me to stop and play with my kids at times because I’m thinking of other things I could be “getting done.”
In effect, for me car rides are ironically times I am getting something done, so it’s much easier for me to relax and give my kids my attention.
I know car rides can be a mad house of screaming and crying and whining — but man, they can also be such unique opportunities to spend quality time with our kids (usually when really good snacks are involved).