The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 18

homefront

Shut Up
and Drive
You can get the goods on your kids while
you shuttle them around town, if you turn
down the noise.
WITH MULTIPLE KIDS in multiple activities, I
spend a lot of my waking hours behind the wheel of
my minivan. We crisscross Roanoke heading to soccer,
violin or art class. Meals are eaten on the fly (and the
evidence is between the seats and on the floor), and
homework is scribbled out while waiting on a sibling.
I used to dread this time in the car, and sometimes
I still do. When my people are feeling prickly, they
irritate each other, or pinch and yell and then I'M
yelling and pulling the car over saying, "If you do that
ONE more time..." (Are you really a mother if you
haven't pulled the car over and threatened your little
darlings? I think not.)
The conversation can be maddening when you're the
only adult. Ten-year-old: "My friend at school thinks
Donald Trump is going to get elected again." Six-yearold: "Donald Trump's getting an Alexa?"
Misunderstandings and pinching wars aside, being

18

MARCH/APRIL 2020

trapped in that steel cage together is when I learn the
real nuggets of my kids' lives. When they were smaller,
I'd pick them up from preschool and elementary school
full of questions. "How was school? (Fine.) "Who'd you
play with at recess?" (Everyone.) "How was lunch?"
(Fine.) "What was your teacher like today?" (She was
the same.) I peppered them with questions, but I never
got anywhere.
A few years ago, I learned to bite my tongue. I
stopped asking questions, and only then did I get
some answers. I turned down the radio, and shut up
and drove. It was then, on some days, that the stories
came out. The anxieties, the friend troubles, the bad
grades that made them feel inadequate. Good stuff,
too-how they felt when a coach complimented them
or they finally grasped a math concept. A lot of stuff
comes out in the space of silence and a listening ear.
I've found the shut up and drive technique especially
helpful with my 14-year-old son. There is no harder nut
to crack than a teenaged boy. They aren't forthcoming
about much, but a Dunkin' Donuts or 7-11 run on the
way to school or practice is helpful. Give a boy a donut
and some quiet, and they might tell you something
about their day.
But there's another trick for the teenaged set-act
nonchalant. Don't offer a lot of advice (save that for
later). Just listen and file it away. Your enthusiasm or
prodding can be annoying enough to shut them up for
a week. Nod and smile, but don't smile too big. I've
been told that can be annoying, too.
The only thing better than one teen for information
gathering is a bunch of teens, so bonus points for
driving carpool. Stick a bunch of raging hormones in
the back of the van, and you'll find out who's dating
who, who made what team, which teachers are mean as
snakes and which ones are awesome, what's on "Insta"
and so on. You'll know everything without asking a
question. The longer you are silent, the faster they
forget you're even there-or have ears.
There's a saying about parenting that "the days are
long, but the years are short." It's an annoying one
when a silver-haired grandma says it to you in the
grocery store, with your toddlers acting like animals.
But years later, it rings true. I feel it now, with the
oldest. Only a few years left together for the day-today, and only 18 months until he'll drive himself more
places than I take him. I'll say yes, most of the time,
to those Dunkin' Donuts runs, a chance to keep that
thread of connection a little longer. To shut up, and
drive.
So enjoy the odyssey in your Odyssey, moms and
dads. Turn down the radio. Turn off the entertainment
system. Make them take one AirPod out, and see what
happens. -CHRISTY RIPPEL
TheRoanoker.com

CHRISTY RIPPEL

ABOVE: Cruising through
elementary school car line.

CHRISTY RIPPEL is an award-winning freelance writer, covering lifestyle, design,
health and parenting. A VT graduate, she likes to bike and walk local trails. When
she and husband Chris aren't watching the Hokies, they watch their four kids
compete in sports. Christy is a Maryland native and lives in Roanoke County.


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The Roanoker - March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - March/April 2020

The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Intro
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover1
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover2
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 4
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 5
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 6
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 7
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - 8
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The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover3
The Roanoker - March/April 2020 - Cover4
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