I’ve been part of a three-family carpool for most of the school year. The moms and I all trade off picking the kids up from school. There are four kids involved. In the past few months one of the moms (the one who has two kids) has been bailing on carpool close to the last minute, leaving the other mom and I to scramble to cover pickup. This has happened at least three times. Plus, her kids can be kind of obnoxious and loud in the car. I wouldn’t mind dropping them out of carpool, but I don’t want to be rude. What should I do?
Dear Carpool Queen:
Uh, hello. Someone already won the rude title and it was not you! What do you have to lose by dropping that flake out of the mix? Not her respect, because not showing up to fulfill an obligation is the number one sign of disrespect for another person, in my opinion.
Okay, okay. I’ll simmer down a bit. The last thing you need is for me to go off about how much I hate it when people flake. If you commit to something, follow through. If you think you can’t, don’t commit. It’s all I ask. Well, I ask a lot, actually. My standards are high. It’s just that I see the potential inside all of you, and I want you to be the best person you can be. The world deserves the you that lives in there. YOU deserve that you.
I ask this of you from a place of love. Honest. And also I would like for people to show up on time for things.
Putting myself in Carpool Flake’s shoes though (we’d better not see a cereal named this in a few months – if we do, you’ll all know where the idea came from). I wonder if something weird is going on with her. You say you’ve been a part of this carpool for a while now, and I assume that up until now it has run smoothly. Did she get a new job? Have an illness? Maybe she’s pregnant and not ready to tell you? Another red flag is that the kids are acting up, too. Kids are so sensitive to changes in their families – they might be reacting to whatever is going on with the mom.
Whatever the reason, perhaps knowing it will help you and the third carpool mom adjust accordingly. It is not rude of you to inquire about the changes in her behavior, especially if you note that her actions are affecting two other families.
Sure, you could drop-kick the lady out of carpool, and if she can’t ever hold up her third of the pickup and dropoff duties, maybe she should be cut loose. But if it’s something beyond her control, and she needs that proverbial village to help out, this is a great opportunity to extend a helping hand. You never know when you’ll need one. Why not treat her the way you’d want to be treated if this were you? You’d want someone to speak up, right?
About those kids: if they’re acting obnoxious in the car, by all means, tell them to knock it off. I have no problem disciplining other people’s kids when they are under my supervision, especially when I am driving and their safety is literally in my hands. I fully expect other parents to act accordingly when they are watching my children, too.
When you are collaborating on parenting duties with other families like this, you do need a certain level of trust in the other adults. If Carpool Flake mom turns out to be unworthy of that trust, she shouldn’t be held responsible for the care and delivery of your kids, and vice versa. But start by giving her the benefit of the doubt. Your words of concern might turn out to be a lifesaver to a struggling mom.
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