As I sit on the plane my anxiety again vacillates between how my freshman daughter with a severely broken dominant hand is going to fare this second semester at college many flight hours away from home. The one comfort I have is that her travel companion to college and her faithful friend at college is “my Hebrew School carpool kid”.
I thought it would be helpful to current stressed-out carpool parents to outline the not-yet-apparent benefits of driving carpools to Temple Hebrew school. The approximate 3 hours a week I spent driving my daughter and my carpool kid turned out to be more than just a program to save on gasoline. It evolved into a relationship between two kids and two families that have provided unanticipated benefits.
Here is the background of how our carpool relationship developed. Both families resided in St Paul (later one family ventured to Mendota Heights) and utilized St Paul public schools. There were two kids who had four working parents that were affiliated at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. Neither family had trouble driving on Sundays, but the Monday and Wednesday afternoons were tough. Both moms knew each other from preschool days and conversed to see if we could work out a system where one parent took off early Mondays and the other Wednesdays to do drop off and pick up. Either the drop off parent stayed and returned to St. Paul or a third parent did pick up.
This arrangement worked more or less for 3 years. The investment of two hours weekly spent hours in my car listening to Taylor Swift, eating snacks aided in developing a rapport. The other carpool mom became the first person I would call when a work, personal or weather crisis occurred. There were a few days when the freeway was just too slow and I turned back and we did Hebrew homework at home. But mostly it worked and all the time driving built trust among the parents and but more importantly between the kids.
I recall now with a smile the afternoon both girls in Kitah Dalet shared with me that they were in danger of not being allowed in B’nai Mitzvah class because they were over 50 pages behind in their workbooks and had to finish them before the end of the school year. They both, with innocent young faces, told me that no one ever told them that before today. I asked them what they had been doing all year in class – the answer “socializing.”
Both girls became Bat Mitzvah and we hardly had to drive through the junior high years and the girls attended different high schools. Fast forward to when the carpool kid graduated high school and we were invited to her Open House. We learned that she was, as she had always told us from the backseat, going to college in California. It turned out that both families had independently chosen to work with the same college counselor. Six months later, my daughter visited her friend for an overnight on campus and my daughter shared with me “Even though we have not spent a lot of time together in the last few years, we bonded easily again.”
Last fall my daughter followed her back seat buddy to the same SoCal campus and when she was having a bad day or week, I had my carpool kid and family there to help us both.
When they fly back to college, and even though Delta may provide assistance to my daughter, I know who will really be assisting during travel and during the semester acting as the “right hand.”
So parents: Try to revel in the hours you spend driving your kids to Hebrew School (or elsewhere) because the mileage you are putting in now may have an unanticipated impact on the journeys that lie ahead.