This is my 6th grader’s first year playing club sports. For us that has meant extra practice nights, away games that might require a couple of hours of driving or even an overnight stay here and there. When we first committed to that, I’ll admit that the driving and the time commitment seemed like the worst part. Now, I’ve come to see that it’s one of the best parts.
When I’m in the car with my son, he talks to me–really talks to me–in ways that don’t always happen when we’re just hanging out at home.
We have the most interesting conversations and I love it. He’s inquisitive, curious, insightful, funny, and silly. And of course, sometimes moody–he is in 6th grade, after all. So, there are some quiet rides, especially after a tough loss, but most of the time, there is a steady rhythm to our conversations.
It often starts with music.
I let him DJ and so I start to hear about what music he likes. We talk about song lyrics, what they mean and what they make us think about. From there we segue into the funny stories that he tells me about what’s happening at school, and I make him laugh with stories from when I was a kid. Sometimes the stories from school are more serious or they’re things that he’s a little worried about, and I’m glad we have a chance to talk through those things.
We talk sports, of course.
How can you drive to practices and games without talking about sports? But, I never played his sport as a kid or even watched it on TV. I come to it knowing pretty much nothing but what I’ve picked up by asking questions of other parents on the sidelines, listening to the coaches during games and practices, and just watching the kids play for the last few years. So, when he wants to do a post-mortem of the game, going over what went right and what went wrong, he teaches me something new every time. He knows that and enjoys it.
It’s fun for the kid to get to be the expert, and I enjoy seeing him teach me about something he’s passionate about. Best of all to me, I never have in my mind a list of things he should have done better or needs to work on that I want to tell him after a game. I just get to say honestly, “I loved watching you play.”
We talk politics a lot.
(Thanks, endless Iowa election cycle–you’ve been a real conversation starter!) He asks what I think about certain politicians and tells me what he’s been wondering about or thinking in regard to some of the big issues in the country. Thanks to stopping in at stores throughout Eastern Iowa that are always asking for donations at the register, we talk a lot about charities, too–how we choose which ones to support, what kinds of causes are important to each of us, and what values are behind that. We’ve talked about religion and some of the problems in our church and how we’d like to see it change in the future. Driving by colleges on our routes, he asks about what college will be like and I find out more about his dreams for the future.
It seems to me that we pack more meaningful conversation into those car rides than just about any other time we spend together.
Music, life, sports, politics, religion, values, education, plans for the future–these are the big conversations that many relationships are built on with anyone special in our lives. They’ve helped me feel closer than ever to my son. And it’s been such a surprise that it all comes from driving to sports games.
I wasn’t expecting that being along for the ride was going to be such a gift.