I am entering the ‘taxi driver’ stage of parenthood. My little customers have busy schedules and must be ferried at the appointed time to brownies, gymnastics, rugby training, soccer training, GAA training, Irish dancing classes, flute lessons, singing lessons, tin whistle lessons, swimming and weekends away, together with sundry playdates, birthday parties and so forth. On top of this, there is the matter of three daily school pick up and drop offs. Nor do they tip.
Of course, it doesn’t all come down to me and my wife. Our wider taxi crew includes grandparents, childminders, together with collaborative parents all play a role. I do sometimes think that we all should have CB radios fitted in our cars and someone back in base, co-ordinating the increasingly complex and ever-changing logistics.
For example, Tuesday afternoons involve a logistical schedule. Kid 3’s 2 pm pickup is followed by Kid 1 and 2’s 3 pm pickup, then Kid 1 has a 3.30 pickup by grandparent 1 to be returned no later than 6.55 pm for a 6.56 pm departure to get Kid 1 to soccer and Kid 2 to rugby. Both kids then have the same pickup time, well after kid 3 and 4’s bedtime, which cannot be achieved by me without either bilocation or bending the space-time continuum. Since both of these things are beyond my capacity – despite my best efforts to date – we’ve had to negotiate a slightly earlier pickup for soccer and a slightly later one for scouts.
As you can imagine, I am keenly monitoring the latest advancements in self driving technology. I am aware that, with a one year old bringing up the rear, I’m looking at another couple of decades of such madness – unless technology intervenes to save me with the advent of affordable self-driving cars. I’m hopeful that by 2030 I’ll be able to use an app to ferry them about from the comfort of the sofa.
Of course, the other option would be to limit the number of clubs and activities. That would be far easier, and indeed cheaper, but kids only have one childhood and it seems well worth all the hassle to help them develop their interests. Along the way, they are also expanding their social network, and their fitness. Who knows where all their interests in sports, music or art will lead? At the very least, such skills will help make them well-rounded individuals. All these interests are child-led and not a product of parental insistence. Indeed, if they want to drop something we are usually frankly delighted as it means one less frantic journey.
Although, these many small car journeys do offer an important opportunity for one-to-one time. Those little conversations mean a lot and give the kids a chance to let me know what concerns might be brewing in the back of their minds – the kind of things that they might not blurt out at the dinner table, but which can emerge as you trundle along in the car.
I know from the hitchhiking days of my youth that conversations in cars can be revelatory. People confide things they ordinarily wouldn’t. I think this may be because you are both looking forward and so there is no eye contact. In ways, speaking to the driver of a moving vehicle is rather like being in a confessional as it seems almost anonymous.
Despite the driving and the waiting, it is wonderful to see them emerge, smiling and triumphant, having scored a try, or having done a forward roll, or in the company of a new friend. For we addled parents, waiting in cold cars on winter’s nights outside sports halls across the country, it is a fortunate compensation that our children’s happiness is also our own.