Dear Hobie & Monk,
I would like to divorce my carpool. One of my teenage passengers is possibly the most irritatingly negative, bossy, know-it-all girl I have ever come across. My daughter has come to despise the drive so much that at times she breaks down and cries into her backpack.
The other carpool participants are pleasant and easy to get along with, and I gather that they share our opinions about this one rider. The kids have tried withdrawing into distractions on the laptop, plugging ears with earbuds and sleeping. But this obnoxious girl merely opens her mouth one time in the course of the commute, and the tension level in the car immediately rises.
Unfortunately, busting up the carpool leaves more than one family in a lurch; between us, we have multiple children at multiple schools and jobs downtown, so we’re sharing rides out of necessity, not convenience. What should we do?
– Driven up the walls
Hobie: What an unpleasant start and finish to what I am sure is a long day for all of you — kids and parents. Because this doesn’t sound like an isolated or even intermittent event, but a constant irritant with serious side effects — the crying would be the last straw for me — your divorce comment seems right on track.
Either something has to change dramatically and immediately (i.e. your rider needs to keep her mouth closed if she can’t otherwise control herself) or someone needs to leave. That someone ideally would be the irritating rider after a difficult call from you and the other parents to the rider’s parents, laying out the awkward but serious situation.
As a last resort, however, that someone leaving might need to be you. I’m a working mom who can appreciate the intricate web of logistics you’ve got in place, but the inevitable headache that follows from this breakup sounds infinitely preferable to the current heartache.
Monk: I agree with Hobie. You have the option of addressing the problem directly by calling the parents of the rude rider, but I would only take this approach if the hope of successful resolution outweighed the probability of bad feelings and nasty neighbor fallout. If you don’t think the odds are in your favor, you need to give your carpool notice — maybe a couple of weeks.
This will give them time to find other transportation options, and your family time to get used to the idea of more driving responsibility. For example, your daughter may have to be more flexible about drop-off and pickup times because you’re working an extra commute into your already busy schedule. And you never know, once you’re single again, other options may present themselves.