The rules of carpool

I was picking up a collection of kids from hockey practice the other day, I noticed something askew. Four boys dropped their bags and jumped into the minivan. Meanwhile, my youngest son, Joey, was playing a complex game of Tetris, moving seats around and positioning bags and sticks so everything and everybody could fit.

I lost my mind and addressed the crowd.

“JOEY IS NOT YOUR PERSONAL VALET. GET YOUR BUTTS OUT AND HELP HIM. NOW.”

It got me thinking about carpools and how happy I am to be wrapping up this period of my life (my oldest will have his license in May). For every parent who uses a carpool, there are understood passenger rules. Sacred rules. Being aware of them can ensure a decade of seamless rides to the four corners of Illinois:

1. Await transport at front window, fully dressed with shoes on. Bolt out the door like you’re storming the beaches of Normandy.

2. Never complain to a parent that you’re hungry. I’ve only got about $3.45 in my purse anyway.

3. If you notice you forgot something 35 minutes into the trip, it’s best to contact someone who sired you.

4. If I accidentally ask you how things are going, put down your phone and respond with more than 10 syllables.

5. Take all evidence of your existence with you.

6. Enter the building with your carpool cohorts instead of running ahead and denying association.

7. If I’m late (most likely because of a breach in rule No. 1) and get pulled over, I will cry. You are never to speak of this again.

8. Do not be mean to my child in the car. I have ears. And a long memory.

9. Exit the vehicle on the curb side.

10. Thank me.

I fear these lessons have been lost on an entire generation of Uber kids who hold up the “gimme a minute” finger at the front window. My father was born in 1939 to parents who barely survived the Depression. I am Gen X. No child left behind never made sense to us.

You opt to eat your Pop-Tart instead of running to the car?

Vroom vroom.


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This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s March 2020 print issue. Read the rest of the issue here. 

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