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Observations from the Carpool Lane


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One week a month, I pick up my daughter and three other neighborhood kids from the elementary school. It’s a pretty sweet deal. I don’t think I would enjoy sitting in that line every afternoon, five days a week, but once a month isn’t so bad.

I’ll typically bring a book to read and I always bring my notebook. You never know when you’ll find something to write about. Such was the case yesterday. The vehicle in front of me in line was a minivan with its back window emblazoned with several window clings. According to the back window, this family had a cheerleader, a football player, a soccer player, a gymnast, a basketball player, a softball player, a baseball player, a choir member and a member of the junior high school band. And while it’s entirely possible this family had nine children, I don’t think that’s the case, unless they were in the habit of naming more than one child by the same name.

And I wonder about us as parents wanting our children to be involved in so many activities; about filling their after school hours with practices and their Saturday mornings with games and other competitions. I think it’s good for our kids to learn new things and to be part of a team. But I think sometimes in our desire for our kids not miss out on any experience, we rob them of the experience of simply being kids, of having nothing in particular to do. When I was a kid, some of my best adventures began with nothing in particular to do.

Kids need structure, there’s no doubt. But they also need unstructure. They need time to discover themselves uninterrupted and unhurried. That goes for us big kids, too.