So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

There’s something about the car that leads to great conversations. Maybe it’s the distraction of the other cars whizzing by, or the horns blasting intermittently. Perhaps it’s the music filling the empty space with sound. Or could it be that we don’t actually have to make eye contact to communicate? After all, who wants a stiff neck from turning in your seat to look at the other person? Whatever it is, I’ve found it’s the best place for bringing up just about any topic.

I remember as a teenager driving with my mom and feeling an ease in conversation. I felt a little less inhibited, more open to discussion. I didn’t mind answering awkward questions or actually initiating a conversation (gasp!). Easy banter would occur as I gazed out the window. I also had a safe distance from any possible hugging…which is the last thing I wanted to risk when talking to my mother. I felt confident knowing we could talk, and then time was up when we reached our destination. It didn’t have to end in a unnatural “thanks for talking,” or an awkward silence. We would simply get out of the car and resume our life without skipping a beat. Or, if things got weird, I could turn up the radio and not feel pressure to keep talking. I’m sure she knew this and used it to her advantage. Maybe I did too, and I enjoyed the comfort of our car-talks.

Today I have my own children who love to talk in the car. Gone are the relaxing car rides where my husband and I talk about all our hopes and dreams (I think there was a time this happened?). All five of my children talk a lot. Even the baby, in her own way. When we get one child alone in the car, it’s like an avalanche of every word, story, experience, and thought they’ve ever had. I love it. It’s the freedom of the car! They are safe to talk without distraction. They know I can’t scoop them up and hug them. They know I’m there and I can’t go to the other room to grab a crying toddler. They have my attention. I’ve heard about crazy dreams or nightmares, interactions with friends, “what I want to be when I grow up” plans, I’m an expert on many odd subjects they find fascinating but mostly I’ve just heard them. And they feel heard.

My oldest son is 11 and is entering into a season where he doesn’t really want to pour out his heart to his mom (or his dad, to be fair). He’s actually always been more introverted and tends to keep things bottled inside. I treasure our car conversations. He opens up. He tells me who his friends are. He tears up when he’s hurt (as he gazes out the window). He tells me he’s disappointed in his piano recital piece (and then turns up the radio). He tells me about his anger when he feels he was treated unjustly (and I can’t hug him like crazy, I only can reach to touch his shoulder).

I love it all.

I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’m still learning how to parent and love these kids. All I know is that I need to find every opportunity to connect with them and pursue their hearts. Car conversations just happen to be one way that is pretty easy and successful.

Here are some tips that have helped me, and that I try to follow:

  1. Keep the radio off or super low.
  2. Do not talk on the phone. 
  3. Ask open ended questions (“What happened in art class today?” Instead of “How was art class?”)
  4. Acknowledge what they say (repeating some of their story or identifying with their emotions shows you’re really listening and not on autopilot saying “wow” “cool” or “sounds fun buddy”)
  5. Don’t react. (No gasping, a shocked “what?!” or “Oh no!!!” Let them process their emotions without you inserting yours)
  6. Empathize (even if it’s ridiculous…)
  7. Instead of giving advice or your opinion ask, “Do you want to know what I’d do?” or “would you like to hear my take on it?” And (here’s the tricky part!) be OK when they say “no”
  8. Joke with them! Be silly!
  9. Let them break the rules…sometimes. (Get a milkshake before dinner, let them say “butt” or “fart” without scolding them)
  10. Be available. Be intentional. None of this can happen unless you take that kid on a drive, an errand, anywhere…alone. Have those drives so he can have a safe place to talk and unload on you.
Happy car rides!
P.S. #11. Follow the speed limit – they will know. They always know.

Hannah Carpenter

I am simply a crazy and stressed homeschool mom living in Ohio. I have five amazing kids and one incredible husband who still loves me after 15 years. Most importantly, I am a daughter of the King who is trying to honor Him everyday through my parenting, teaching, art and writing.

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

Dear Child, God Sees All of You—And So Do I

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Mom and young son painting together

Math has always come easily to him. Even from the beginning stages when we counted wooden blocks on the living room floor, the numbers just came to him. “How many blocks are there?” I asked him, pointing to the scattered row of blocks. I expected him to count them. He was only three or four years old. “Six,” he answered promptly. “Yes . . . but how did you know that?” I asked hesitantly. He had not taken the time necessary to have counted them. “Three and three are six,” he replied. And on it went. The math came easily,...

Keep Reading

Kids Crave Your Time, Not Fancy Things

In: Kids, Motherhood
Dad and daughter with basketball smiling

I have four kids, and like most parents, I’m doing my best to give them a happy childhood, but we’re not really an activity family. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good day trip to the local water park or a night out at the movies, but with several different ages and a tight budget, activities or outings are rare for us. Sometimes I end up feeling bad about it, like our kids are missing out, but then I take a deep breath and realize that some of the best moments come from the simplest of things. Lucky for...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergarten Graduate—Wherever Life Takes You, I’ll Always Be Your Safe Place To Land

In: Kids, Motherhood

I cried on your first day of kindergarten. Did you know that? I held it together through the getting ready and the goodbyes—but once I had waved one last time and was pulling out of the parking lot, the lump in my throat poured out as hot tears down my cheeks.  How could you be starting kindergarten? You, my precious firstborn baby. We had some growing pains as we adjusted to a new routine. The school days were so long. I spent my days missing you and you spent yours missing me. We were apart from each other more than...

Keep Reading

The Secret to Slowing Down Time Is to Notice the Moments You’re Living In

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear current self, You’ve heard a lot of mothers admonish you to slow down and enjoy every moment with your children. They’ve warned you with phrases like “before you know it,”  “in the blink of an eye,” and other cliché’s that haven’t really hit you, but they will. Soon, they will. I am writing you now because I’ve seen you trying to wrap your mind around the how-to—as if holding time in your hand is a skill anyone has successfully mastered. I’ll save you the suspense. It can’t be done. It is inevitable. Your kids are going to grow up....

Keep Reading

You Don’t Have to Celebrate a Holiday Just Because It’s On the Calendar

In: Kids, Living

I switched on the computer, adjusted my chair, then quickly swiveled back around again toward my husband, “Are you sure? You don’t mind?” “Me?” he made a swift waving motion as if swatting a fly. “Psht. Yeah, I’m fine with it. You?” He lifted his head and locked our eyes a little more securely, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” I said firmly, without hesitation. “OK, good,” my man turned back to his phone, “Love you.” “Good,” I confirmed. A rush of relief swept through me as muscles I didn’t even know were tense suddenly relaxed. A bubbling surge of energy had...

Keep Reading

I’m Raising Wild Boys

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy and toddler smiling at each other, color photo

Yesterday my boys (two and eight) were playing outside in our cul-de-sac—running, yelling, tackling each other . . . all the normal stuff. One of the neighbor moms was out as well, looking on as her son joined the fray.  “I need to send him over to your house for a week or two,” she joked, “so he can get more in touch with his boyness.”  “No, you don’t want to do that. My boys are wild things,” I quickly replied. And I wasn’t joking. My sons are rough, tough, primal beings.  Moments before this conversation, my oldest was ramming...

Keep Reading

A Big Move Brings Big Emotions For Little Kids—Here’s How to Help Them Cope

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood

It doesn’t matter how outgoing or funny or charismatic your kids might be, the possibility of uprooting their little lives and relocating to a new city is terrifying for any parent. Add a global pandemic into the mix, and it’s an idea that feels almost insurmountable.  But when my husband got a job offer we couldn’t refuse, we packed up the car and drove our two kids (eight and four) west from Pennsylvania to the great state of Arizona. The decision weighed heavily on me, and I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of mom guilt that followed. But as I’ve...

Keep Reading

My Kids May Never Be Professional Athletes, But They’ll Be Strong, Confident Adults Because of Youth Sports

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tween boy playing hockey, color photo

I have pivoted 180 degrees over the last few years on one major bone of contention in our household of four, which includes two sporty kids who love ice hockey and baseball: the rationale behind our, in my opinion, excessive expenditure of resources on our sons’ youth sports careers, and whether this makes any sense.  Neither of them is NHL or MLB bound. Or at least the chances, statistically, are extremely minuscule. And yet, we have directed an inordinate amount of our life savings as well as our precious time to not only club sports, but also private lessons, to...

Keep Reading

Food Allergies Won’t Stop Her—How My Daughter Is Teaching Me to Be Brave

In: Kids, Motherhood

Dear daughter, I know sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever do normal things without me hovering over you. Double and triple-checking your snack labels and drilling you about whether your allergy meds are packed and ready. It’s a lot for you to carry, physically and emotionally. But you’re so strong, sweet girl. Flexible, too. You can do this because you were built for it. And someday, someday, you’ll see it: that this story is yours because you carry it with grace. You don’t complain much, and when you do, you follow it up with a wise comment, saying this sort...

Keep Reading