As my family walked out of a friend’s house the other day, I turned to explain why we were heading to our car. She lives about six blocks from our house.
My self-image is as walker and transit user. My daughters are both veteran bus and Metro riders; I’ve walked them both to school regularly and have taught them to stand to the right on Metro escalators and wish bus drivers a good day.
Increasingly, though, I am finding myself becoming what my younger, more smug self thought impossible: a taxi parent.
The change was most abrupt this summer. I signed them up for camps, one close by and the other a few miles away, near my husband’s office and transit accessible.
The plan was that in the morning I would walk the younger daughter to the camp nearby and my husband would commute by bus and metro with the older daughter.
In the afternoons, I would pick up my younger on foot and we would together take public transit to fetch my older daughter.
Then camps began, and my husband was called out of town. I drove them both in the mornings that week. I did manage the afternoon walk/transit, but it was miserable. My daughters were tired and cranky after camp, and the heat was becoming unbearable.
Now, three weeks in, my summer of transit has vanished. I mostly drive them to and from.
And, I just signed them up for an August camp that is several miles away and not accessible by transit. I’ll be driving them daily then, too.
The car, more than I want to admit, has become my parenting crutch.
This spring, a survey by the British polling company Populus found that a third of parents surveyed spent between 10 and 49 hours a month driving their children around, with 2 percent spending 50 hours or more on taxi duty.
I suspect a similar study of American parents would find larger percentages in the taxi-ing camp. A May study by the Oil Price Information Service for CNNMoney found that the average American household spent about $368 on gas the previous month.
The survey did not separate out how much of that gas money was spent shuttling the kids, but it’s safe to assume that much of it did. The modern layout of our sprawling family lives makes car use, if not essential, certainly more convenient.
To walk or use transit instead, I know, is a healthier, safer option and more environmentally sensitive. Plus, it would allow my girls better access to their surroundings and teach them far better lessens.
But … it’s so hot. I’m rushed. The girls are tired. We have so much to carry. The far-off camp is worth it. There are so many excuses. So many that I now sometimes forget to even make one. We just open the door and head for the Volvo.
How much time do you spend in the car shuttling kids to and from school, camp and activities? Do you try to find alternatives?