Carpool Playlistening

Photo (C) Layton Findlater 2004

Due to a budget cut, we don’t have a school bus at our school.  So my neighborhood organized a carpool when our children entered kindergarten.  It  saves gas, time and creates a sweet sense of community, and a special bonding of parents and children among families.

However, about two years ago when we first started carpooling, we faced some challenges with our kindergartners.  It was a big transition for all of us.  Now one parent had to deal with four to five children in a much more structured setting.  It wasn’t the nice, long play dates we used to have, with several parents and children all playing around together in the preschool years.

I was not handling the children’s social situation well, although I loved the whole arrangement and all the people involved.  For example, I was utterly embarrassed when my son was rude to other parents or children.  I didn’t know how to respond to a rude remark like, “I don’t like you!” from a child either.  Play often became too aggressive or too intense and I didn’t know when and how to intervene when all five children ran into a conflict in a car while I was driving.

I now reflect that we were tense from a big transition.  The morning and after school carpool time often manifested the tension. Separation anxiety, time pressure, etc. were packed in the thirty minutes we spent together driving and walking to school.

Parents got together and came up with a carpool arrangement, then invited one of the Hand in Hand Certified Instructors for an education night to learn about the Hand in Hand Tools.  Some families started doing Special Time and Staylistening at home.

As I built my skill as a parent taking Hand in Hand classes over the next few months, the feeling of overwhelm shifted into a sense of experiment and humor when handling carpool group challenges through many trials and errors.

Now they are finishing their first grade.  Every pick-up and drop-off has a connection ritual like hugs, or “no hugs” games or high-fives, with at least a moment of eye contact.  It is a nice routine now.

One morning, I picked up two girls in addition to my son.  It was a busy morning as usual.  Kay had an especially rough morning as her dog had scratched her leg.  She was quiet in the car looking sad and twirling her hair.  Annie was a bit sleepy.  My son was growly.

Driving, I said, “Hey, Kay!  So good to see you!” in a happy tone.  “You know I can do some math while driving.  Wanna try?”  Then Kay asked, “Okay, what is four plus four?”

I tried to answer, “Let me see…(pause)…hmmmm.  What is four plus four?”  Then, from the back of the car, a wrong clue came with a giggle.  “It’s five!  Say it’s five!”  I gave this wrong answer loudly, “Kay, it’s five!”  To this they all shouted, “Wrong!  It’s eight!”  I moaned, “What!?  I got that wrong!?  Let me try again!”  So we kept giving each other math and spelling questions in the car.  They were always right and I wasn’t.

When we arrived at school 15 minutes later, they were the most cheerful children running inside the campus.  I chased after them.  They laughed and ran even faster when I begged, “Hey!  Don’t leave me!  I want to play more!  Do you really need to go?  Don’t leave me!”

I was very happy to see all three of them running to school cheerfully and confidently.

Keiko Sato-Perry, Certified Hand in Hand Instructor

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You can learn more about Hand in Hand in the Listening to Children booklet set.


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