“Walter and I have decided against buying that wooded acreage,” Laura Kersten said, a sigh of disappointment in her voice.
“Why?” I asked, my mind racing ahead to find the answer before she could reply. I couldn’t understand it. As long as I’d known the Kerstens, they had talked about building their dream house on a large acreage far out of town. The wooded hill, nine miles from the city limits, seemed to be exactly what they had been yearning to own.
“Too much travel,” Laura explained. “We would have to drive the children everywhere. No school bus comes near. Walter says it would take too much time and money.”
“You would get value received for every minute and every penny you would spend traveling,” I answered, with the assurance of long experience.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I raise my children by the mile. Living out the way we do, we put over 15,000 miles a year on our car, going back and forth to town. The children are with us most of those miles. That’s the asset of living away from town.”
“I still don’t see—”
“Well, Laura, when we’re home, I can’t seem to nail the children down for more than a minute at a time. They’re busy with activities and homework. The telephone and the TV are big juvenile time takers, too.
“But in the car there’s no place for them to go and nothing much for them to do. That’s when they open up and talk. That’s when I find out what’s on their minds. That’s when understanding and comradeship and know-what-you’re-working-with parental guidance come into play.”
“Can you give me an example of what you mean?” Laura seemed interested.
“Of course—several of them. Yesterday when I was driving our 11-year-old Louise to her music lesson, the subject of popularity came up. In the seclusion of the car my shy daughter felt brave enough to admit that she wanted to be popular.
“‘How can I be more popular, Mom?’ she asked. ‘Do I have to have more clothes than anyone else, or be funnier, or talk a lot?’
“I was glad for this opening. I had felt the need for a talk about friends and popularity, but at home there never seemed to be a moment that was right.
“Fifteen miles later Louise and I had had our talk. I wish I could put on canvas the look of ‘I now have more confidence in myself’ that was on Louise’s face when she got out of the car.”
Laura nodded, then asked, “What about Jim? Do you think you understand the un-understandable teenager by chauffeuring Jim and his friends?”
“I remember one trip in particular, about three months ago, when I took Jim and some of his football teammates to an out-of-town game. By their conversation I learned what they think about sportsmanship. I learned that they like boys who play according to the rules and those who accept defeat gracefully and victory modestly. They do not like the kind of person who tries to alibi or excuse his failure. I learned much more.”
“I guess you’ll miss not driving Jim, now that he’s old enough to drive himself.”
“That’s what I thought, but the other night when Jim had a meeting to plan a party and I handed him the car keys, he said, ‘Why don’t you take me, Mom? When we’re in the car together, it’s the only time we can get things completely talked out. You’re always so busy around the house.’”
Yes, there are advantages and blessings to raising your children “by the mile.”