September is such a hard season for parents. Everything is starting up, all at once, with new schedules and new classes and new expectations.  Last year we finally got a carpool going for everything, and it was such a relief not to have to manage ALL those drop offs and pick ups, but naturally, things aren't the same this year.

Here's how we plan our carpool.

1.       Get a SMALL group. I know it seems like you'll drive less when you get more people involved, but it starts to be a nightmare when you're dealing with different car sizes and more moving parts. Four people is the max for us because we can all fit five kids in the backseat (and one can fit six), so we have a sibling buffer if necessary. We chose to stick with only three because we know each other WELL, we trust each other to be on time, and we're in the same general neighborhood.


2.       Sit down together - ideally in person. Lay out the schedule, including when pick ups need to happen, if any other siblings will need to be in the car, and all the other details. In our case, our girls have dance three nights a week and there are three of us who live in the same neighborhood. This means each of us should have to do one pick up and one drop off - which should be simple. But some nights are trickier because of overlapping siblings and back to back activities and nights that one or two of the girls need to stay late. We needed to have ALL the puzzle pieces together. We weren't able to get it to only two trips a week for each of us, but we did get something.


3.       Decide on the rules. Is food allowed in the car? Does anyone need a booster seat? When do you allow kids to sit up front? Can they have their devices out in the car? Are you ok with either mom OR dad driving? What about a babysitter? Get this stuff talked about now. Even if you were with the same people last year, the kids are a year older and issues are different now.


4.       Get the schedule somewhere you can all access it. When things come up - as they inevitably will, you'll want it all laid out. We actually wrote out a hard copy for each of us instead of only relying on our phones. I keep mine in my planner, another mom keeps hers in the car.


5.       Get as many off days on that calendar as possible. Vacations, family stuff, anything we could think of that would save us the realization at the last minute that our week was going to be shot.


Realize that issues come up. Things happen. Kids get sick, siblings get sick, conflicts will happen. Make sure it's a group that you can talk to if something happens, and a group that you can trust. If no one is flaking on a regular basis, it's much easier to handle when something does happen, and all three of us are fine with picking up the slack, knowing that we'll be given the same graces.

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