Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where the Magic Happens

If, like me, you misspent hours of your youth watching MTV's celebrity home show Cribs, you know there were standard moments that appeared in each show: the refrigerator shot, the expensive car display, the tasteless bling of the nouveau riche. If the celebrity guide was male, you also got the same wink-wink nod-nod joke in every tour. As each guy showed you his master bedroom, he couldn't resist introducing it as "where the magic happens."

With great deference to both my husband and our master bedroom, the magic happens somewhere else entirely here--my minivan. And before your imagination starts going into overdrive, I'm talking about magic of a completely different sort than those bozos did on Cribs.

My kids and I spend a lot of time roving the streets in that magic box we call a minivan. I drive them to and from school, which is twenty minutes away. Most of their school friends live at least that far. Gymnastics practice happens twenty minutes in the opposite direction. The new sailing program is a thirty-minute drive, and summer surf camp was a full hour away. For several hours each week, we are a captive audience for each other.

Much of the time we travel in silence. The kids read, we listen to music, or we listen to audiobooks. Our attention is rarely fully on each other, but the magic happens in those small moments in between songs and books.

Even if my children don't intend to tell me anything, they usually do. They may say school was "good," "nothing" interesting happened, and everything is "fine." But we are in that small space together so long and so often that they often let slip what's really going on in their heads.

This morning was a great example. My son's fifth grade class is having its first overnight trip today, and he has been somewhere between excited and indifferent about it. I loaded his overnight gear into the back of the minivan and headed off to school. A few minutes into our ride, I asked, "Do you want to listen to our story?" My policy is that both must agree to turn on the audiobook.

My daughter eagerly said "yes" to our current fantastical adventure story, which thus far seems good but a little creepy and monster-y. My older son, however, said, "Don't you think it's a little grim for a day when I'll be staying overnight somewhere else on September 11?"


Well, I guess it is. We listened to music instead.

While the kids bopped along to a pop song, I parsed that single sentence.

1. Excellent use of grim.

2. Although he hasn't said a peep, I guess he is a bit nervous about being away tonight.

3. I didn't know he knew enough about September 11 to appreciate its horror and solemnity. I wonder where that came from.

One car ride, one sentence, so much to consider. That's magic. And it happens every day while driving to and fro in my cliche of a mom-mobile. Those guys with the gilded houses have nothing on me (except those TVs that rise out of the furniture. I could use one of those.)


  1. When my older kids were teenagers, I would wait until we were in the car to talk to them about anything serious. They always seemed to be more willing to talk.

    1. A friend whose girls are college age gave me a great tip. She told me to always offer to pick up the kids after a school dance (or other event). Turn the music loud in the rear speakers and quiet in the front speakers. The kids will talk freely thinking you can't hear them over the music, and you'll find out what really happened. Genius.

  2. The magic happens with me when we are walking home from school. Usually it's just me and one kid, and that kid feels comfortable to tell me stuff.