Car Space = Headspace

Come to my house on the weekend, and you’re sure to hear music playing. Someone in the house has his or her favorite music blasting on every speaker. Give me a song from my past, and I am sure to have some memory or emotion attached to it. Music has always been an important part of my identity, even though I have absolutely no musical talent.

Sure, I’ve dabbled in music education. I was in (mandatory) chorus in elementary school, I played the clarinet for three years in middle school (my dog would howl when I practiced), and  I attempted to play the guitar in high school but didn’t get very far because I already couldn’t remember how to read music.

I also tortured my poor parents with my tone-deaf crooning on every road trip, and when I got my driver’s license, my own personal concerts became some of my favorite times. My Discman plugged into a cassette tape converter got me through many drives to and from Memphis in my college years.

As an adult, my personal car concerts turned into essential decompression time. A morning drive with coffee and Casting Crowns always put me in the right mood to tackle the day head-on. Leaving work, my music was always tuned to whatever emotion I needed to let out before I got home.

When my oldest was very little, we chose a daycare close to home, but I worked 45 minutes away, so I had plenty of time for my personal concerts. When she got a little older, I worked closer to her daycare, but she was always more interested in singing along than in telling me about her day. When my youngest was born, she’d babble and coo along to the music while my oldest and I sang along, and everything was good.

Or it was – until this year.

My now three-year-old likes to talk and ask questions.

I now work 30 minutes from home, but her daycare is close to my work. This means she is in the car with me for 30 minutes in the morning and another 30 minutes in the afternoon.

And she talks and asks questions the whole time.

I want to be the mom that enjoys these conversations. I want these conversations to be the highlight of my day. And we’ve had a few adorable conversations, but for the most part, the rides are all exactly the same:

She asks me the same questions both on the way to school and on the way home. Every. Single. Day:

Hey Mommy, I have a question. When we get home, can I have a snack?
Hey Mommy, I have a question. When we get home, can I have a drink?
Hey Mommy, I have a question. When we get home, can I watch TV?
Hey Mommy, I have a question. When we get home, can I watch for Idgie’s bus?

 The answer is always yes. It never changes.

Most days, she finds something to get upset about:

She forgot her blanket – it’s still at school; we don’t need to bring it home every day.
She forgot her stuffed animal – even though she already has two others in the car.
She dropped her toys – and wants me to stop the car to get it.

Whenever I tell her I can’t address these issues, she gets angry. She cries. She takes off her socks and shoes. Sometimes she throws them – at me – while I’m driving.

When I do try to have focused conversations with her, it doesn’t go well. Even with the music and the air conditioner turned off, I struggle to understand her little voice from the back seat. If I have to ask her to repeat herself more than once, she gets upset. If there is still a shoe to throw, she throws it.

If ever these challenges are resolved and I dare to turn the music up, I am quickly reminded that the little queen in the back would much prefer her chauffer be attending to her rather than focusing on the road ahead or the songs on shuffle.

I find myself arriving to work already exasperated. I arrive home even more exhausted than I was when I left work. I miss being able to get my frustrations out with a Fuel song or being able to mellow out with Collective Soul. I miss how the haunting melodies of The Rasmus or Evanescence always make me feel a little bit better after a bad day. I miss singing along at the top of my lungs to The Backstreet Boys when I’ve had a good day.  I miss matching my mood with some 90s nostalgia, some country crooning, or even some Broadway musicals. (I’m pretty sure I’ve aged myself in the paragraph!)

I miss the music, but what I really miss is the time to clear out my headspace.

Losing my car concerts has meant losing the opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the day so that I can give my students my best self. Losing my car concerts has meant missing out on time to unwind for the workday so that I don’t bring that stress home to my family. Losing my car concerts has meant losing a form of self-care I didn’t even realize was self-care.

I love my talkative, inquisitive little girl, but I keep hoping one day I will hear from the back:

 Hey Mommy, I have a question: Can you turn up the music?

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.


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