Adventures in Getting There: Carpool dos and don’ts
By Cathy Janek For The Sun March 14, 2013 4:02PM
Cathy Janek, Naperville Sun Transportation columnist.
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:04AM
Be it lacrosse, swim, cheer or Scouts, many Naperville families have kids going in completely opposite directions. With crazy schedules, carpools can be a family’s saving grace — when they work.
“Being a working mom, I couldn’t do what I do without the help of a lot of people,” said Karen Kiecker, owner of Kicks Shoes in Naperville.
As a mother of four, who range in age from 6 to 19, she says carpools help her connect with other parents going through the same struggles.
“It is a kindred spirit attitude among parents to say, ‘hey I need help.’”
Kiecker also stressed that it isn’t always easy to ask for that help.
Overall, she said that her family has had some great experiences in carpools.
“I love hearing the kids interact and get to know each other,” she added. “It provides a great environment to get to know your kids’ friends better.”
Sometimes though you do have to relinquish control, which can be very difficult, Kiecker said.
“I’m a very punctual person. Punctuality is key in carpooling,” Kiecker said. “As my kids have gotten older, I am trying to teach them to be accountable.”
Some don’t find it quite as important, as Kiecker has learned.
“There are people I won’t carpool with anymore because being timely wasn’t a priority to them,” she said. “I know that may sound kind of silly, but when everything has to be scheduled, being on time is really important.
“I have had carpoolers that have made my child late for 15 minutes.”
It is important to get the right people to carpool with, Kiecker said. She jokingly added, “Just like you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, the same applies to carpooling.” People you carpool with have to have the same philosophy that you do, Kiecker added.
In the case where Kiecker’s carpool was not working because of an on-time issue, she arranged the carpool so that she was driving them to the activity, and another family was handling the pickup.
When my kids were younger, they used to carpool to school with another family, Kiecker said. “The kids just didn’t get along, so we stopped the carpool.
“It was stressful for a couple of months before everyone came back together and started talking again.”
My own family is part of a weekly carpool. Before committing to it, each family weighed in on their schedules. The moms texted the night before to coordinate pick up and drop off. Aside from the extra enthusiastic singing resonating from the backseat each week, so far so good.
Common sense, share the load manners are paramount in any successful carpool.
“I’m a hockey mom, and I carpool a lot out of town,” Kiecker said. In these “extreme carpooling” situations, there are added costs such as meals, hotel rooms and gas that parents should consider.
“The worst thing is when another parent says, can I give you money?” Kiecker said. When someone drives her child to an out-of-town, overnight event, she just gives them money. No questions.
When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, I received a phone call from another more seasoned mom with older kids who said, “I called the mom of the birthday girl, and she said your daughter would be attending the birthday party. Could my daughter have a ride?” Of course, I was happy to help her out and appreciated her early lesson in parental graciousness.
While evites have eased the guest list guessing game, I once received a phone call from a parent whose child needed a ride to a party my child wasn’t invited to. Ouch!
Kids also should be respectful and thank the driver. I have had to remind my own reserved children to say it, just say it — say, “Thank you.”
Cathy Janek, who has lived in Naperville since 1986, writes about transportation in the city. To offer comments and tips, email her at email@example.com