With school sports and tryouts starting up we are all looking for ways to save time and money. One great way to begin is with putting together a group of parents to car pool. Car pools can be a sports parent's best friend, lightening the load of all those trips to practices and games that weigh so many caregivers down.
They also save on the cost of gas (and with a gallon costing almost $4 per gallon these days those savings could be substantial) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. But they require commitment and planning, especially in poor weather, if they are going to work.
Here are some tips:
- Make rules for drivers and follow them: Car pools don't work unless you agree on rules for the participants on such things as driving safety (i.e. seatbelt use, no aggressive driving, obeying traffic laws, avoiding road rage), pick-up times (to allow sufficient time to get to where you need to go), obtaining driving directions, etc. Talk to the coach or team administrator of your child's team about setting up a carpooling schedule. At the preseason meeting, sign up other parents and ask them to agree to the rules in writing, to avoid any misunderstandings later on. Stick with the rules you set up or the car pool simply won't work as it was intended. I once had a mom come pick up my triplets only to find out that there was only one seat belt left and she wanted all three to share it. They were too big to fit into one belt at 11 years old so I was forced to take them and had to cancel a much needed dentist appointment.
- Establish and enforce behavioral guidelines for the kids. Create guidelines and rules about allowable child behavior in the car (i.e. no yelling, no throwing of objects, no roughhousing, no removing seatbelts or switching seats while car is moving, no music or video from iPods, MP3 players or DVD players loud enough to disturb driver or other kids etc.). Be consistent in discipline (warnings, kicking a child out of carpool etc.).
- Be responsible. A car pool is a cooperative endeavor, and you are responsible to the other members. If it is your turn to drive, it is your turn to drive, no matter if your child is going to the practice or game that day or not. You set a horrible example for kids if you shirk your responsibility and let them down by not showing up.
- Expect the unexpected: Sooner or later, something will mess up and forget that it's their turn. It's best to confirm the night before. When you are deciding how long it is going to take you to pick everyone up and get them to the practice or game, remember to build in extra time in case you run into traffic delays, get lost, or a player isn't quite ready when you arrive to pick her up.
- Communicate expectations to the kids. Be certain to tell each child exactly where you will pick them up, and emphasize the importance of being on time, with all of their gear, and in uniform. Kids also need to understand that whichever parent is driving is acting for their parents (in loco parentis) and that they need to listen to them as they would their own parents.
- Establish a foul weather policy. After years of wringing my hands and wondering if a game would be cancelled because of rain or thunderstorms (or the threat of rain or thunderstorms), I learned to assume that the game would not be called off, unless I heard from the coach or team parent to the contrary. This way we were always on time. There were a number of occasions that my entire team showed up and the other team erroneously assumed that the game would be cancelled, resulting in a forfeit in our favor.
Do you have other car pool tricks and tips you want to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them on MomsTeam's Facebook page.