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When you’re parenting preteens and teens, it sometimes feels like you are an unpaid Uber driver. It can be a thankless job. During busy seasons, I spend 80 percent of my evenings driving, parking, dropping off, picking up, sitting in traffic, running errands, waiting in drive-thru lines.

I say things like buckle your seat belt, turn that music down a little bit, take your trash inside, stop yellingwe are in the car, keep your hands to yourself, don’t make me turn this car around, get your feet off the back of the seat, this car is not a trash can, what is that smell, and I can’t look right now, I’m driving.

Now that I have a 15-year-old who will be driving on his own in a short year, I’m realizing how important those car rides really are and how much I will miss them soon enough.

RELATED: My Favorite Part is the Drive

The car ride back and forth from school to home, or home to practice, is where the kids open up to me most. It’s where we chat about their day, their classes, their friends. It’s the place we have impromptu dance parties. It’s a moment of slowing down in the middle of the chaos of running to activities, social events, and friends’ houses. It’s where I get to know the friends who are along for the ride with us. I get to be part of their conversations and thoughts (and sometimes they even listen to my advice).

The car rides are where some of the best moments of connection happen. Sometimes it’s the only real time I get to spend with them before they are off to their practices or games, or they seclude themselves in their rooms to FaceTime their friends, do homework, or watch their favorite shows.

Some of our best and most thoughtful conversations happen in a 10-minute car ride. We take turns choosing music, singing way too loudly, and complaining about each other’s song choices. We play car games like the alphabet game and finish the sentence. Sometimes we just sit in comfortable silence at the end of a loud day.

RELATED: The Most Exhausted You Will Ever Be Is Not When You Have Infants and Toddlers. It’s This.

There will come a day soon when they won’t need me to pick up, drop off, and chauffeur them from place to place. There will be a time when they breathe a sigh of relief when they pull into the driveway, knowing they are home, but it won’t be the driveway that leads them to this home. They will want to drive themselves, explore their new independence.

I will worry for them and call out “Be careful!” as a way of letting them know I love them while suppressing the urge to take their keys and beg them to just let me take them where they need to go. I’ll watch them pull out the driveway, those tail lights reminding me that parenthood is a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. Watching them fly on their own, knowing I did the best I could to teach them to make good choices, and praying that God will cover all the places I may have fallen short.

The car rides can be stressful. Everyone is tired, hungry, grumpy, and just wants to get there. The mess can be overwhelming. The muddy shoes, spilled drinks, endless crumbs. The fighting. The crying. But in all of that madness, there is a gift. It’s a short time of presence and connection every day. Even when it feels exhausting, there is magic in the car rides, and it doesn’t last forever. Hop in, buckle up, and enjoy the drive.

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Kristin May

Kristin May is a teacher, mom, and wife who excels in being a hot mess and has a passion for encouraging and lifting up other hot mess moms.

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