Even though my boys are involved in lots of activities, we don’t do much carpooling because in our town, everything is very close together so we can travel to the baseball fields and basketball courts within minutes. Middle Dude frequently walks home from school with his buddies and Big Dude takes a bus so we don’t too much school carpooling either. On the occasions where I do have to drive an SUV full of rowdy boys, I keep my mouth shut, except for asking a question like, “How was practice guys?” or “Where do you live Michael?” These trips are generally short so I don’t feel the need to make conversation anyway. But, the other night I had a whole different carpooling experience.
Big Dude had a camp reunion with all his buddies from the summer which involved the camp party, and an after-party dinner. Like typical boys, there was haphazard planning and last-minute changes, but by the time Saturday night came, the plan was set, or so I thought: I would drop Big Dude off at the reunion, pick him up two hours later, take him to the dinner, and then pick him up after dinner and take him home. Except 30 minutes minutes after I dropped him off at the dinner, he called to ask if he could go to a girl’s house after the dinner with a bunch of other camp friends.
“Uh, sure. How long are you going to stay there?” I asked, mainly because my husband and I were killing time nearby, because the camp festivities were a 45 minute drive away from the suburb where we lived. We had to hang out, as it made no sense to drive back and forth.
“Oh, I’ll just go over there for 20 minutes.” Big Dude said.
Well, I already knew that was a complete underestimation. A bunch of teenage boys getting together with a bunch of teenage girls for just 20 minutes? Yeah, right.
I pleaded with Big Dude to make a plan to sleep over at one of his friend’s houses who lived nearby. Within minutes, he arranged the sleepover and called me back. I thought I was off the hook, but then he said he needed me to drive him and his friends from the dinner to the girl’s house. The only reason I agreed was that my husband and I had had a nice dinner ourselves, and were already on dessert so I figured I’d be an obedient mom-chauffer. After I hung up, I realized I forgot to ask him where this girl lived.
Turns out, her house was about a 15-minute drive from the restaurant, which was tolerable because at least I was headed in the right direction towards home. My husband was in a separate car so he drove home while I went to get the boys. As they all piled into the car, I realized I had not carpooled a bunch of teenage boys before for an extended period of time and suddenly I felt awkward and self-conscious that I would embarrass my son.
I thought about my own teenage years, when my father would drive me and my girlfriends to the skating rink or to a movie. He inevitably would start singing, not to the radio, but to some old-fashioned song he had in his head. Within seconds, I’d cut him off and hiss, “Daddy, don’t sing!” He’d oblige, but I really don’t think he had been worrying about whether he appeared to be a cool dad or not. He just went about his carpool duty and if he felt like singing, he did. I, on the other hand, questioned every move I made.
Should the radio be on and if so, what station and how loud? I had it tuned to the 80’s satellite station, but I didn’t blast the music. I kept it at a respectable volume. I wondered if I should switch it to Hip Hop or the Top 20 station.
Should I talk or not talk? A 15-minute ride is a long time for me to stay silent, but I really wasn’t sure if Big Dude wanted me to talk to his friends. So, I sort of chimed in from time to time, but mostly let them talk to each other.
Then, I took a wrong turn and the phrase, “oh shit” flew out of my mouth.
In their teenage eyes, a cursing mom would be the ultimate cool mom. At least that’s what I told myself. But, what if they thought I was inappropriate or setting a bad example? So, then I said, “sorry guys, you didn’t hear that.”
One of them chuckled, and then I wondered if I just made myself look MORE cool or LESS cool by apologizing. I had never second guessed myself so much in such a short amount of time. I pictured the boys mimicking me later.
The 15-minute car ride felt like an hour to my inexperienced, carpooling mindset. When we finally arrived at the girl’s house, the boys climbed out of the car, politely thanked me and eagerly went inside.
I figured if I embarrassed my son in front of his friends, I’d hear about it the next day.
He didn’t say a word. Maybe I am a cool mom after all.