Americans, in most parts of the United States, do have a love affair with their automobiles. After all, here you can drive eight hours or more and be in the same state, whereas in most places in Europe you can cross several different countries during that time! The United States is very large indeed!
And our urban areas often sprawl. I live in a sprawling Southern metropolitan area that covers about twenty counties. We have just about everything and anything one would want to do – but it often comes at a high driving price.
I love this insight by Jack Petrash in his book, “ Covering Home: Lessons On The Art of Fathering from the Game of Baseball”:
I can still remember my parents packing the car for our summer vacation. The trunk of our ‘52 Ford was filled to the capacity with suitcases and boxes of food. The back seat belonged to my brother and me and we were told in no uncertain terms that we had better behave. “You are going to be in the car for a long time. Bring something to play with and don’t fight. This will be a long trip.”
That “long trip” was a fifty-mile drive that we made once a year to stay at a little motel on a small lake on Long Island. Nowadays, this distance is a daily commute. Back then, during most months, I was not in the car for even two hours.”
Spending hours in a car is difficult on small children, and on us as well. It is an area that can almost creep up on us as we realize the amount of time we have spent in the car in the past week, the past month, the past year. My husband and I were driving back from his parent’s home yesterday and we looked at each other and marveled how many hours we must have spent in a car together in the past 25 years – together, without children and together with children.
I think there are some simple ways to think about reducing time in the car, and the first step is to being aware and wanting to change that pattern for your children. Spontaneous, outside play at home is far more important than being in a car. As Jack Petrash writes, “If our children today are wired and wound up, it is often because they have been denied an outlet for their nervous energy.” So if your children do not seem robust, but instead whiny, difficult, demanding, nervous and anxious – double check how much time you are in the car!
To reduce car time think of:
1. Simplifying your rhythm and times you are out of the house. The most successful Waldorf homeschooling families I know are home four days a week or so. Sometimes the adults of the family go out more, but the children are home. This is not always possible for single parents or for those whose partners and spouses travel, but simplifying your rhythm to include “less” is always more indeed.
2. Simplify your errand running. Can you order on line? Do you have to go to the grocery store every week or could you go less often? How far can you stretch?
3. Can you make connections with your neighbors? I think this can be an important support piece in staying home. Or, if you are in a rural area, you might enjoy just the art of being on your land and the quiet.
4. Can you come up with a rhythm that will anchor you whilst you are home? Where and when are your rising times, your meal times, your times when you work WITH your children around the home, your singing, your baking/crafting/painting kinds of activities, your preparing for festivals and feasts? These things form the backbone of the family no matter what the age of your children.