“Don’t do it,” she said forebodingly, trying to talk me out of driving carpool. We had just purchased a car, a luxury in our Israeli community, and we had agreed to drive our neighbor’s kids to-and-from school. It seemed like an obvious arrangement: Our kids were all going to the same places; we didn’t need to go out of our way to get to them; the mother just gave birth to identical twin girls; and they didn’t have a car. Of course they would chip in for gas, and as their friends and neighbors, we were more than happy to help.
But my friend who had chauffeured other kids in the past was firmly cautioning me, “It’s not worth it, the money is not worth it and it will make your life miserable.” She listed many pitfalls of this type of carpool agreement. You always have to be on time; you can never decide to take a day off or get a late start; you’re beholden to the fact that someone else is counting on you to get their kid to school. The mornings are more hectic as you lose precious minutes of sleep and prep time to accommodate the carpool. And the extra minutes add up—waiting for the parents to meet you by the car, making an additional stop, strapping other kids in and out of car seats.
I considered my friend’s warning, but decided to do it anyway. Yet, heeding some of her advice, we set up a per-ride payment system, in which they pay us less than the going rate and only for the rides they receive so that we’re less obligated. This way when dentist appointments and other aberrations in our schedule pop up, we don’t need to factor in a binding responsibility to our little passengers.
But now that I’ve been driving carpool twice a day for over three months, all I can say is… I love it. Love. It. I love the added pressure to be on time. As a work-at-home mom I could easily fall into the laziness of late drop-off, but the carpool pushes us to be out of the house early, and everyone benefits from the structure and consistency. I love greeting multiple kids at school at the end of the day, seeing other classrooms and teachers, and feeling more acquainted with the school beyond my own son’s class.
I love the excuse to schmooze with their mother everyday when she meets me at the car, usually with one or two babies in tow. We used to be acquaintances just because our husbands were friends, but now we’re forging a real friendship through these carpool interactions.
Mostly I love the back seat conversations that I overhear as I shuttle them around. I love it when the 2-year-olds disagree on important issues, like whether that vehicle is a tractor or construction truck, and it dissolves into a “nuh uh”-“uh uh” back-and-forth, continuing long after they remember the original point of contention. Or when one of the older boys said, “Wanna hear the names of the kids in my class?” And without waiting for an answer, he proceeded to rattle off a list of names.
And through this beautiful opportunity to do chesed (yes, it’s still chesed—loving-kindness—even though we’re getting paid) our children see us extending ourselves to help other people on a daily basis. These repeated acts of kindness model our values to our children without saying a word to them.
I’m sure that the school carpool drop-off and pick-up grind can be nerve wracking and stressful for some, but I can honestly say that it’s one of the highlights of my day.