Friday, April 21, 2023

The Morning Commute

Car doors open. We climb inside. Doors shut. Kacey Musgraves floats through the speakers. 

It’s quiet to begin with. The morning chaos is over and the three of us take a small breath of relief. 

Sometimes it stays quiet the whole ride. Sometimes there is a question about the day's plans or a curious thing they see. “Why can I see birds flying and then they turn and disappear for a few seconds and then I can see them again?” “Why do the trees shadows look like straight lines instead of tree-shaped shadows?” 

Other times there’s light discussion about something nerve-racking or exciting that is slated to happen at school. 

Mostly, it’s quiet. 

We pull up to the drop-off line and they both unbuckle and start gathering their things. Doors open. If I’m lucky, I get a quick “bye.” Some days it’s just a shutting of the door. I watch them go for half a second, wondering how my babies turned into teenagers. 

I let that thought linger for half a second more and pull forward. Don’t want to hold up the drop-off line. 

I turn right and head past the school. I send off silent good luck vibes and release them to the world. 

The woods are calling. My daily dose of peace and contemplation. As I head there, I watch as car after car passes with a teenager in the passenger seat. Some are sitting silently. Some have turned toward their parent and are chatting. Some are leaned back into the seat with their eyes closed. Some have hoods pulled over their head. Some have hair combed to perfection. Some have taken a more wild path. 

As I pass these people I have never met, I can’t help but think how similar our lives likely are. The struggles we face getting our teens out of bed in the morning or to bed in the evenings. The arguments. The emotional volatility. The quiet car rides. 

I think about this with the teens, too. In this drive to school, they are releasing the events of the morning and prepping for what’s to come. Important test. Did they study for it? Hard social situations. Will they be accepted or rejected today? Big game after school. Will they succeed or fail? Maybe they are excited. Anxious. Mad. Content. Whatever they are, for a few moments in the car, they are safe as they fortify themselves to take on another day of middle school. 

Whether the morning was filled with lively discussion, mutual explosions or quiet contemplation, those moments during the drive have an energy to them. A connectedness between parent and child that says I love you no matter what. I love you through tears and yelling and meanness. I love you through anxiety and frustration and incomprehensible behavior. I love you no matter what. Always. 

What a gift in that morning commute.