Morning drive, morning talk

Strangely enough, the morning drive is one of my favorite times of the day.

That isn’t to say I love commuting. I do love my job, but the morning slog can be a joyless affair.

Good thing I’m a parent. As long as my kids have been going to school, I’ve been taking them there. I used to grouse about their total disinterest in those great yellow creatures that ferry students back and forth — seemed like a handy and reasonable solution — but the fact is, we’re all headed a few miles south, into downtown, for school and work. So I take them.

That has meant a whole lot of ear time. We’re not sitting face to face. We’re ear to ear. It’s private. And we’re physically close together.

Mentally may be another matter, but that’s OK. One of the pieces of this daily ritual is fun music. I love putting on KMHD-FM, our excellent local public jazz radio station, and preheating the day with some gentle “funky goodness,” as morning DJ Derek Smith likes to say. The sax starts talking. The piano starts talking. But because it’s mostly instrumental, there’s plenty of room for us to start talking too.

It’s nothing profound. What’s the plan for after school? Who’re you seeing, where are you going, how and when do you get home? And, what’s the plan for during school? How’d that homework project go? Are you ready for that math test? How’s lunch lately?

And hey, about what you were saying last night about the drama in your life, I was thinking. Did you ever ask Maeddyssonne to ask Jaellyene if she really heard Sebastianne say that terrible thing to Raeganne about Emilee? Or maybe, somehow, the story got garbled? Is that possible?

Maybe not. But it’s nice to demonstrate real interest in the things that matter most to your kid while keeping the body language oblique. Leaving plenty of physical and mental space to stare out the window, consider the new day, find the right words. Heck, it’s morning. Creakytime. All are forgiven for mental fuzz. No parental lectures now. Mostly just friendly curiosity and a gentle pointer or two. Listening more than talking. Plus that music in the background, so it never feels like the capital-A Agenda is confessing to Dad.

The only real agenda is beginning our day with a little funky goodness.

Distracted driving: “Everyone’s doing it”

But there’s talking behind the wheel and there’s e-talking behind the wheel. Interesting to note that research presented at a American Psychological Association convention this summer found that a slim majority of 400 surveyed teens admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving. Only about a quarter said they texted while driving.

Who were they talking to? To a vigilant mom or dad. One hundred percent of a smaller group of teens who did in-depth interviews for the survey said so.

Why? Because “parents get mad” if teens don’t answer their calls promptly and divulge where they are — according to those research findings. I must say, that‘s a convenient and affecting defense: It’s my parents’ fault. They’ll yell at me! As if we highly explosive, pathetically homebound parents spend all our spare time demanding status updates from our teens — precisely when we already know they’re likely to be out driving.

Maybe there’s a real point here. The researcher also said teens see parents talk on their cellphones while driving, and conclude that “everyone is doing it.” That sure rings true to me.

So let’s remember that plentiful findings all point to distracted driving as a leading cause of crashes among all drivers, and especially among teens. There’s even a new government website,, devoted strictly to the dangers of distracted driving. It says that nearly three quarters of teens and “young people” have sent a text while driving, and that more than three quarters of all drivers have at least read a text while driving.

We have power over our devices. Yes, even teens do, though it often doesn’t seem that way.

Parents, when you call a potentially driving teen, your first words should be: “Are you driving? Call me back when you’re not.”

Teens, when your potentially annoying parent calls, your first words should be: “I’m driving. I’ll call you back.”

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