School has barely started and I’m already dreading carpool. I am a parent in a carpool mostly with new people, and I don’t know them well at all. Some of the people seem super uptight and constantly comment on group emails, while others barely answer at all. Someone already got angry with another carpool member about switching days. I’m not great with Google Docs, so I’m having a hard time working with the spreadsheet we’re using, but I’m too nervous to ask someone to help!
How do I survive this year without losing my mind?
I like to think of carpool like the TV show “Survivor.” Alliances are formed, the toil is real, and sometimes someone gets kicked off the island.
Let’s be honest here: To the uninitiated, it may seem that carpool is simple. Split the drives equally, communicate openly, smile at the darling children, and enjoy not having to do every drive yourself. Easy, right? Wrong! The thing about people is that, well, they are people. Everyone has their own way of dealing with others, their own personal nisyonos (challenges — which they may think are worse than yours), and their own tolerance level for other people’s shenanigans.
However, you can make it as smooth as possible by following one simple piece of advice: Always remember the obligation we have as Jews to be “dan l’kaf zechus,” judge others favorably.
Let’s see how this applies for carpooling situations. Let’s say a mother calls you and says she can’t do her carpool today and asks you to please do it for her — but doesn’t offer to switch with you. You work full time, have five kids under 8, and your husband travels all the time. Here’s my advice: If at all possible, do her darn carpool! Do you know why? Because I can guarantee you right now that there will be a time that you need someone else to do yours for you. It may not be this person, but it will be someone, somewhere, sometime in your carpooling life.
I will also advise you not to complain to other people in your carpool about one particular member (i.e., no loshon hara — negative speech about someone). This is a big mistake, which I learned from personal experience. Here’s why: Once you mention that Hinda never switches with you when you ask, or she’s impossible to reach, your friend Shira will get it in her head that Hinda is a bad carpooler. She may or may not have thought that before, and you should not be responsible for putting that thought in her head. Do you hear what I’m saying?
Now, I am going to share my deepest wisdom on the topic. It is called, “A little generosity goes a long way in carpool.” Let me explain: This year marks my 15th consecutive year of carpool. It has been a rollercoaster, and it has taken me many of the last 15 years to internalize this message, because it can be tough. Not only do we need to give others the benefit of the doubt, we also need to be generous.
Now that I am in my last few years of carpool, I try very hard to do that. I volunteer for extra drives or I try to offer to drive when someone is in a tough situation. I’m not saying this so you’ll say, “Rivkie, you are truly a tzadeikes (righteous lady),” because I’m certainly not that. I have big kids who can stay alone while I run out to drive somewhere and I have a flexible work situation. And, it has only taken me 15 years to realize that tit for tat is not a good look for carpool.
If we go by the assumption that people are basically good, then we have to realize that there are stages in life that are more difficult for carpool, and we should cover for each other whenever possible. In addition, now that I have teenagers, you can bet that I want to hear what they have to say when they get in the car.
So, bring on some extra carpools! In a few years they’ll be gone, and I’ll wish I still had carpool. Maybe I’ll cover for you. Call me in a few years and we’ll talk.
All the best,