There’s no question that parents raise their youngest kid differently from their oldest. A few of the more meaningless “standards” are apt to fall by the wayside. Anyone who denies this truth, is either lying to you or to themselves. And, without a doubt, the further apart your children are spaced, and the more kids you have – the greater the disparity. With a 14 year chasm between our oldest and youngest, our Childrearing Metamorphosis is shockingly pronounced. There are some moments when we are barely recognizable as the same set of parents…
Case in point, when our oldest was 6, I was standing outside her first grade classroom with a group of mothers. The topic of discussion was an upcoming field trip to the zoo and which mothers would be willing to drive. My hand shot right up. I couldn’t volunteer fast enough. My immediate impulse was, “Pick me! Pick me!” One of Emilie’s classmate’s mother was a battle-hardened veteran Mom, whose first grader was her 5th and youngest child. She responded, quite emphatically, “You couldn’t pay me to drive that field trip!” I was horrified by her cynicism and lack of enthusiasm. Sharing my observation with Jimmy the second he got home, I lamented in despair, “Why would a person even have children, if that’s their attitude?”
Fast forward 23 years and here’s what I know:
When a young girl/woman has children, she optimistically believes that her duties are going to be 90% shaping and molding character, with approximately 10% tedious administrative-style parenting responsibilities sprinkled in. That’s exactly backwards. As a parent, you spend 90% of your time driving your children around. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the rare opportunity to influence your youngsters in any meaningful way. (Conservatively – LESS THAN 10% of the time.)
I would suggest to you that you’re a “Glorified Chauffeur,” but I think “Glorified,” is overstating things a bit…
One recent Saturday night, Tommy (the youngest of our 5) went to a local “Teen Hangout,” with a group of friends. One of his friends’ parents volunteered to drive them there. Since they were all spending the night at our house later, we let the other parents know that we would be responsible for getting the boys home. We figured it would be around midnight. Saturday Night Live would be over, and we knew we would, at best, be trying to hold our eyes open. So, Jimmy suggested that Tommy download the Uber app to his phone.
My hurdle was to sell our plan to the other “First-Time-Teen-Parents.” These folks are just now entering the Teen Scene from the parenting side of things, and are not yet jaded, or sufficiently burned out. I feel uniquely qualified to reason with these parents, because I was them just a few short years ago.
I went at it from this direction: “This is the ideal time for the boys to Uber! No one is desperate right now, so we can always go fetch them if there’s a problem. But this way, in the future, they’ll have the app on their phones, and they’ll know the ropes. If they ever DO NEED to Uber, (for whatever reason) they’ll be confidently familiar with how it works!”
For further persuasion, I added, “Take it from me, don’t blink, the day they NEED an Uber will be here sooner than you think!”
My friend, Leslie, (mother to one of Tommy’s buddies – her firstborn son) listened to my logic and said, “Give me a minute to marinate on that…”
I responded, “Take all the time you need!” I wasn’t too concerned, Jimmy and I had already agreed that whomsoever nixeth our Uber plan, was driving the midnight pick-up shift themselves.
Leslie saw the light; the group of boys übered home and were safely in my den, killing villains on our Xbox, by midnight.
What I didn’t see coming, was the following weekend: Late on a Saturday night, while dining out with friends, we received a text from Tommy asking if he could uber over to his friend Max’s house. We looked at one another and shrugged. Other than Max’s parents thinking we sucked, we could find no legitimate reason to say no. For $5 he übered over and a few hours later, $5 got him right back home.
Now, I find myself reminiscing over my entire 29 years of parenting and wondering where the hell Uber has been all these years. I could just cry thinking about how many tennis lessons, dance classes and football practices, I dragged a breastfeeding infant or a screaming toddler into my mini-van, in order to transport their older sibling somewhere. Uber could’ve been right up there with Sonic, Fruit Snacks and Disney Videos on my list of Approved Parenting Tools.
I mean, they thoroughly vet those Uber drivers, right? I see no reason why Mollie couldn’t have been übered around town the year she sold a record number of Girl Scout Cookies. No amount of money would’ve been too much to pay for that service.
Suffice it to say, I’m uber into ubering. It’s rapidly gone from being an adjective and a noun in my home, to a verb. And, I’ll even go a step further – in the course of driving my kid around, if that Uber Driver chances to notice a character issue in any one of my kids, that they think needs a little tweak, they are encouraged to address it. At this stage of the game, I’m obviously not above a little assistance.