Driven to Talk

By Carol Joseph

Driven to Talk

I’m happy to say that my daughter learned about sex on I-75.

No, she wasn’t involved in some lewd rest area sex scandal, nor was she picked up while hitchhiking by some pervert. No, my daughter learned about sex, and all its possible complications and consequences, while talking to me during a four-hour drive home from a volleyball tournament. She also learned about love, faith, family and relationships during conversations we had while cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour.

The conversations started years ago as we logged countless miles on our minivan driving from metro Detroit to northern Michigan and back for family ski weekends and summer vacations. Since this was before the era of backseat DVD players and headphones in every ear, there was ample time and opportunity for conversation. In between I Spy and The License Plate Game, we talked about everything from who’s popular and why, to what’s on everyone’s Santa list, and how come little brother’s bedtime is the same as big sister’s. 

As she grew older, the conversations evolved into things like “When can I my ears pierced? Who will our cousins live with when Aunt Carol and Uncle Rick get divorced? How many girls can we pack into the basement for a birthday sleepover?”

Eventually, we did break down and get a portable TV, and later on, a DVD player for the car, to make nighttime travel easier. And the rides did get quieter. But we always made time for conversation. “What high school should I go to? How old do I have to be to date? What was Grandma Joseph like?”

Even back then I knew there was something about being in the car, without all the distractions of home, which made conversation so easy. Perhaps it was the intimacy of the close quarters that we shared. Or the anonymity that came from not looking each other in the eye as we spoke. Or maybe it was simply having the time to let our thoughts and conversations wander. Whatever the reason, we were able to talk about all kinds of subjects, including those we might not have broached at home. “How come you and grandma argue so much? Do Adam and Christina live together? Are we rich?”

Four years ago, we left Michigan and moved to Florida. And one of the things I missed most was our weekend trips up north. Sure, I missed skiing, hiking and walking the frozen beaches of Little Traverse Bay. But what I missed most was the time spent with family in the car. I missed hearing funny stories about teachers, singing along with Raffi and Veggie Tales and eavesdropping on my daughter as she quizzed her brother on his multiplication tables. I even missed the quintessential “Are we there yet? “And the inevitable “I have to go to the bathroom,” announced exactly one mile past the rest area.

But life changed, and we adapted. Our weekend trips up north were replaced with trips to volleyball tournaments, visits to Tampa to see my mother and our annual 1800-mile summer pilgrimage back to Michigan. And so the conversations continued. “Can we get another dog? When can we start looking at colleges?” And, my personal favorite, “What’s wrong with boy/girl sleepovers?”

Last fall, my daughter and I drove to the east side of the state to shop for a homecoming dress. While the trip may have seemed unnecessary and somewhat indulgent on my part, I had an ulterior motive: three hours of uninterrupted car time. Time I desperately wanted to reconnect with my perpetually busy high school senior. Time we both needed to talk about this exciting, and sometimes scary, chapter in her life. It was time well spent.

Interestingly enough, something else happened during our car rides. My daughter’s cell phone actually took a backseat to our conversations. At the beginning of each trip, she’d be texting her thumbs off. But the longer I drove, and the more we talked, the less she looked at her phone and texted her friends. Once, she even turned her phone off. That’s when I knew our car rides were as important to her as they were to me.

Recently, my daughter and I drove to Tampa to visit my mother. This time, it was she who did most of the driving and me who did most of the talking. I talked about drinking and our family’s history of alcoholism. I talked about how my husband was the only person I ever dated that I could envision myself with 25 years later. And how she would know when she met the right guy. I talked about my faith and how my relationship with God has seen me through some dark and difficult times. I told her about my hopes, dreams and fears for her. She listened – and asked questions. And when she spoke, she showed me, yet again, that the little girl who used to sit in her car seat singing silly songs and talking about her favorite pets, had grown up and become a kind, intelligent, mature young woman.

I’ve got a few more road trips planned for this year, including the one where my husband and I drop our daughter off at college. Depending on which school she chooses, that could be as far as six-hours away. And while I hate the thought of her being that far from home, I’m already thinking about how much last-minute advice and motherly wisdom I can dispense during a six-hour car ride. And all the great conversations we’ll have along the way; especially the ones about sex – and abstinence.

Of course, I’ll be sad driving home without her, but all is not lost. I’ve also got a teenage son who is about to get his driver’s permit. And that means he’s going to want to spend a lot of time driving…in the car…on long trips…with his father and I.

Something tells me we’ll have plenty to talk about.

About this writer

  • Carol Joseph Carol Joseph is a freelance writer who lives in Naples, Florida, with her husband and two children. Last year, she gave her mother post-it notes and pretty note pads for her birthday. She has yet to use them.

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One Response to “Driven to Talk”

  1. Great insights with good perspective about how to use time to get to connect with our kids. Well done.

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