Thursday, September 11, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do

With school and sports in full swing, you may be thinking of starting a carpool. I've been involved with several through the years, some brief flirtations, and others long-term commitments. While they can save gas, parents, be aware that they don’t always end well.

When my daughter was in pre-school, I tried carpooling with a neighbor. It was not a match made in heaven. It seemed my car wasn't clean enough for her three-year-old, and the mother apparently had never heard of the child car seat law. Fortunately, we were not too invested. In fact, after I called it quits, I saw another mom picking her daughter up the very next day.

My next dysfunctional carpool experience came to a quick, and, thank God, not a violent end. She was a speeder. I didn't realize how bad it was until my daughter, a first-grader at the time, came home and said, "Mommy, Miss Terri’s always in a hurry. She drives so fast; she scares me!"

My most recent (and final) carpool was a long term commitment, spanning the five-year period when my daughter was in middle school to her sophomore year in high school. We started with four parties in our group; a year later, there were three. I can tell you, nothing is more political than a carpool. We had to delicately explain why we couldn't pick up Johnny next door anymore (His tuba just wouldn't fit in the car).

Carpooling requires a detailed schedule. And, believe me, you'd better keep up with it, or you'll be driving every week. I knew that things were starting to sour when we began arguing over the phone in the mornings about whose turn it was.

Once the kids were in high school, a different situation emerged. My daughter was in the band, so she didn't need a ride in the afternoon. However, I was expected to pick up their children when it was my week, even if it was just one of them.

Trust me, nothing builds resent more than having to wake up two younger children from their naps, and then fighting traffic, in order to pick up someone else's child--especially when it's an ungrateful one. If it's your own teen who sulks, slams the door and never says thank you, you can grin and bear it, remembering how cute he or she used to be, but when it's the kid up the street, not so much.

Added to the stress of the relationship was the fact that my child no longer got along with the other two. I had to referee arguments every morning, fighting the urge to make them all walk to school.

All of this leads to the inevitable break-up. I'll never forget the day I left my car pool. As I dropped one of the girls off, she assured me that her dad would pick her up. Apparently, she hadn't cleared that with him. He called me later irate that his daughter had to wait an hour after school.

"And, also," he added, "she doesn't like having to climb over those car seats. I have cut you some slack over the years because I know you have little kids."

Stunned, I mumbled an apology, hung up the phone and cried.

Later, I thought, "Why am I doing this? My daughter doesn't even need a ride in the afternoon. I haven't gotten anything out of this relationship in two years!"

I've been on my own ever since. Occasionally, I would hear a familiar honk and feel a little wistful, remembering those weeks when it was someone else's turn to drive, and I could stay in my pajamas past 7:30 a.m.

Sigh. Breaking up is hard to do.

No comments: