What would you do about this carpool situation? (long)

susanfnpFebruary 8, 2006

I'm hoping to get your wise opinions about a problem I'm having with my daughter's carpool. She is a freshman in high school, and at the beginning of the year we were asked by the parents of another girl if we would carpool, with them taking the girls to school, and me bringing them home. My schedule is such that I am able to take my daughter to and from school, but I'm in favor of carpooling on principle, and the other family has trouble getting away from work to pick their daughter up in the afternoon. Public transportation is possible but very inconvenient (it would take them about an hour to get home this way). They go to a private school and there are only a handful of students from our immediate area who go there, so carpooling possibilities are not abundant. So, although I would have preferred a carpool where I could drive in the mornings instead of afternoons, I agreed to this because it really helps the other family out, and because I didn't really have any other carpooling options on the horizon.

A couple of months ago the other girl started doing after-school sports, so she was not getting a ride home from me on most days; her parents would pick her up later in the afternoon. They continued to drive my daughter each morning. I didn't see this as particularly unfair. In the past with other carpools, if my kids have had after-school activities, I have borne the extra driving burden, and did not expect the other parents to change our agreed-upon schedule to accommodate my kids' schedules; the other parents have felt the same. And if I'm signed up to drive in the afternoon, I'll still do it it for the other kid(s) even if, for whatever reason, I'm not picking up my own child at that time. It seems to me this is reasonable, in exchange for the security of knowing that the carpool is there for us when we need it.

But last week this girl's mother announced that since they no longer needed us in the afternoon (at least for the time being) she wanted to have us share the driving responsibilities in the mornings, and we would each pick up our own daughters after school. Well, OK. We agreed to switch off weeks. I drove every morning last week. But a couple of times the girl did not stay late at school and asked if she could ride home with me. Fine. Except always in the afternoon I end up waiting a good 10 or 15 minutes more for her than for my daughter (she says it's because her locker is on the other side of campus). This has been a minor annoyance from day one, but worth the benefit I was getting from the carpool; however, last week I found myself fighting not to be majorly irritated by it, since I had done all the morning driving as well.

So this week is the other parents' turn to drive in the AM. But this morning my daughter informed me that I was going to have to drive her to school, because the girl had called her last night, after I went to bed, and said that since they didn't have class first period (sometimes they have a kind of study hall, for which no attendance is taken, but for which they're still supposed to be on campus) she was going to sleep in, so they couldn't take my daughter at the regular time. Excuse me? OK, I'm not sure whether it's fair that I now have to drive half the time in the morning, but I AM pretty sure THIS is not fair, not what I signed up for. I'm going to call the mother today, although not first thing this morning because I really don't want to fly off the handle with her.

So I'm trying to work out how this conversation should go. It's definitely not acceptable to me that they renege at the last minute on their commitment, as they did today, and I have no problem saying that. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I'm aware that this family needs the carpool more than we do (at least when the girl doesn't have sports after school) because our schedule is more flexible than theirs. However, I don't want to be petty or to say everything has to be on my terms just because I "can." And of course, any carpooling is better than none, so it benefits me too. Is it reasonable to say that if they want to keep the carpool going I would like them to drive EVERY morning, per our original arrangement, in exchange for me committing to driving their daughter home after school when she needs it, even if that's rare nowadays? Is it reasonable to say that if they want me to drive their child she will have to figure out a way to get herself out to the car a little faster in the afternoon? I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face, but I don't want to be taken advantage of, either.

If you're still reading, thank you! That was rather long-winded, wasn't it? In the scheme of things I know this is not such a serious matter. But the people here always give such thoughtful opinions, so I'm anxious to hear what you think. Thanks in advance.


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Susan, I love the part where the child calls after you are in bed to say she will be sleeping in!! I'm sure it's less funny on your end but ironic, eh?!

I'm afraid I'm the carpool queen over here, & drive a lot of kids after-school for inner-city sports programs so I've made my peace with driving after figuring out what's worth it/what's not. For some of my daughter's activities, there are few drivers. For others, there are plenty. Stickier yet is the case of the all-too-willing teenage driver waiting for his license to dry! Aaaaaagh!!

I gave myself the luxury of deciding not to be in a carpool this year, but I have only one teen & a flexible schedule. I had a similar situation last year & decided that for me the "spontaneity" & unpredictability were not worth the trade-off of a few rides. My daughter often has rides to various activities with casual trades & I am no longer up in the air daily.

For me this is good. I am available to drive friends after school so I meet everyone, hear everything, SHHHHHH!

As for your conversation, I think it's good you got to review the details & vent here. Driving for you may be a greater distance & imposition than for me here.

I think I'd say some version of "Gee, I notice I'm driving more often lately & we seem to have our signals crossed some mornings. How about we go over the details again? That would help me be clear about our arrangement." I'd also have a few words at the ready such as "No, I just don't think that would work for us." or "Let's try that for a couple weeks and touch base again."

And no, I don't think you can go back to the original arrangement, that ship has sailed. But yes, you can ask if there is a way to speed up pickup or park in a different place, or show up a bit later with both daughters aware of the plan, but first I'd address the situation of who's picking up in the afternoon. You might want to think of it as "5 mornings & 1 afternoon" if that's what's happening. For example, she drives 3 mornings/week & you drive 2 mornings & 1 afternoon, with advance notice. Life happens but for the most part the other girl/family should be able to give you advance notice so you don't have to wait in suspence every day to see who's coming. Personally I'd show up with a book or knitting, or just catch up with my daughter a few minutes waiting for the other. That's prime time to hear what happened during the day, and may be lost by the time you lose the other girl. Life ain't fair, but the bumps in the road give you a lot to talk about with your daughter -- as long as you're not late returning to work or a meeting or your daughter's activities.

Recently I picked up my daughter, several teens piled in, & one boy said "I need to run back for something." Well, a half hour passed as we had a good time imagining what he was doing and plotting with his backpack. When he finally emerged it turned out he'd taken a "test" during his return to the school, so that's now carpool lore & more fodder for spoofing. Bottom line, a sense of humor helps keep an eye on the prize. I really do value the after-school time with the gang, and most of them rush right over gushing thank yous and including me in their banter. Can't put price on that.

Hope others have help for you, it's kind of like marriage, you both think you're doing a lot, even when you *know* the other one isn't!!!

(Apparently I'm equally long-winded & it's not even my carpool!)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 1:13PM
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I lost a friend over a carpool situation gone bad. So I just don't do it anymore. I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's kid, and I don't want anyone else to be responsible for mine.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 1:29PM
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My DD also attends private school(for 13 years) and we've had the exact same situation.
Firstly, we have a standing rule about mornings and afternoons:
If it's your day, You do carpool even if your child is not going to school.

If it's the parents driving, you need to speak to them

Be aware that carpools don't always work out "evenly".
Make them aware that you've been waiting around the extra 15 minutes for their daughter, even though you don't have to.

I also found myself in the situation mid year several years ago, where the "friends" we were carpooling with became intolerable.

I called the school and asked for names of others who lived in our area and was able to cobble together another carpool.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 1:44PM
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There is a lot of give and take with car pool, and I think it works best between good friends because it can be such a strain. It sounds like this car pool may not work out for you, in that case, don't take anything personally and just let it go. Car pools are wonderful and its fun to see your children interact with others (that can be enlightening, in fact). However, some down time alone in the car with your daughter could be a very good thing for your relationship with her. Another alternative is to ask your daughter if she has a close friend that she can car pool with, although it might be out of your way, it could work very well. Plus, it's a good idea to expand your group of friends who you can call upon to pick your daughter up in the event of an emergency or something else that prohibits you from getting her on any given afternoon. Maybe there is a third party you can include in your car pool?

One successful car pool I know of requires (in a nice way) that the 5 moms get together once a month and discuss their daughters schedules together. If any girl needs to be to school early or stay late due to a test, they've agreed to send all of the girls early or keep them all late rather than disrupt the car pool. Our girls high school has laptops and wireless, so the girls are never at a loss for something to keep them busy.

I also want to add that I am usually the one who is on the receiving end of car pools. I have a lot of children and am grateful that my friends don't count the driving they do for my children. I cannot possibly repay them by driving their children an equal amount.

The key to car pool is recognizing that any party might need to change plans overnight and might not be able to notify you until it's time to leave the next morning. For example, in the case of the girl skipping her first class because it was a study hall, perhaps she was feeling sick, perhaps she needed to finish a project up in the morning, or maybe she just needed a good night sleep and her mom told her to sleep in. Not the most considerate way to tell you, but with teens you really need to go with the flow or you will go berserk. And I know that you know that, it just helps to remind myself of that fact. Driving these long distances to and from schools and other activities can make you crazy. Good luck, I hope the problem resolves itself quickly.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 1:48PM
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As charming as teenagers are, most of them are pretty inconsiderate and take parents' labors for granted. You certainly could speak nicely to the other girl about not making you wait for 15 minutes when you hadn't planned to. I don't agree that you should just accept this behavior. Teenagers really need to learn that even parents' time is valuable, and they certainly can walk a little faster, make arrangements ahead of time, or whatever it takes. Learning to be considerate of others is a valuable part of their education. And I know whereof I speak, having raised five teenagers. Sometimes they're just thoughtless, and they're perfectly willing to try harder if someone just shows them the way - kindly but firmly, and without harshness.

Several good ideas above, but it sounds like there is no one solution for everyone. Maybe if you told the other parents that you have some concerns about the carpool, then presented several alternatives that would be acceptable to you, you all could agree to try something new for a while and see how it works out.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 4:46PM
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Everyone here has posted great ideas and sage advice. My initial reaction was "Drop the carpool! Who needs it?". Since you were mainly doing it for the benefit of the other family rather than your own, it seems to me that their lack of appreciation takes away the incentive to continue.

However, diplomacy and negotiation are valuable tools to teach teenagers and perhaps this is a good chance to model those and also teach the girls (and the other parents) what is acceptable and what isn't in the carpool. So, in thinking it over I would say to follow the advice of others here about going over the ground rules with the other family, making it clear that the rules must be respected (YOU must be respected) or it just won't work out. Then, if problems persist, cut the cord.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 5:24PM
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We were in a similar situation when I was in high school, but we were the other family. I needed a carpool ride because my parents worked late. Our solution was that instead of a true carpool, I paid a modest sum for gas to the other mother to take me and pick me up from school. When I stayed late for sports or whatever, my folks picked me up or I made other arrangements. If my folks picked me up late, we always offered a ride to the other girl in case she wanted to stay late.

Maybe that could work for you.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2006 at 8:49PM
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Thanks, all, for your helpful words. I do enjoy driving the kids as it is one of the best ways to get the "dirt" when they talk in the car (it's amazing what you hear; sometimes it seems they've forgotten I'm even there :-) . For this reason I often volunteer to be the driver for my daughter and her gang of friends after school & on weekends. It's not that I "keep score" and I'm certainly not averse to helping out people in a bind when I can; goodness knows others have done so much for me and my family along the way. I think this particular situation stuck in my craw because I take honoring my commitments seriously and am always taken aback when others don't do the same. Of course there are sometimes extenuating circumstances when it's not possible, but in those cases it's nice if I'm at least kept in the loop.

It seems this girl had presented a rather loose interpretation of the truth to her parents, telling them they didn't need to bother to take my daughter to school because I was going to take her that day. When I talked to her mother we agreed that changes in the schedule would be worked out only by the two of us in direct communication. I can live with that for now, and next year I'll reevaulate whether carpool is something I want to do.

seekingadvice: so true about being role models for our children. That's one of the great things about being a parent; it motivates us to be on our best behavior.

Thanks again, everyone.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 1:29PM
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I'm glad you had a conversation with the other mother, seems to be working out. I've had similar snafus when kids orchestrated details. They see things a little differently, I think!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 6:49PM
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Would you believe I miss carpooling??!?
Carpools were an absolute necessity in my town. Places and activities are very spread out, and I had two children involved in every sport imaginable plus after school Hebrew school. I would drive in a circle from 3:30-8:00pm everyday- school, ice skating rink, soccer fields, etc.
I had to sell my sedan to buy a Volvo station wagon with 7 seatbelts, so I could be included in the Hebrew school carpool!
Needless to say, I would do anything to keep the carpool relationship friendly!
I learned so much about my kids and their friends. Some days carpooling was really a chore, but now that my kids are grown, I really miss those days.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 7:17PM
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Carpooling can seem more like a hassle than a relief sometimes. If you do not have to wait for the other child WHEN she doesn't have to stay late...I would simply say "My car leaves at this time, if you would like a ride make sure you are here and I would be more than happy to accommodate."


Here is a link that might be useful: making morning carpool easier

    Bookmark   January 20, 2015 at 4:45PM
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