Before you get too worried, this is not one of those “everything your child’s teacher wishes you knew about being a teacher” or a post telling you everything you are doing wrong. Instead it is five ideas for how you and your family can keep Christ at the center of your ride to and from school and practices. I had grand expectations of myself as a Catholic parent praying with my son and teaching him to pray, and then the reality of being a working mom hit hard and I realized I needed to make some plans to seamlessly integrate prayer into what we were already doing or it wouldn’t happen. My son is a baby, so some of these ideas may seem a little young, but would easily adapt to older kids.
- Have a set of prayers you always say in the car. Both my family and my husband’s family would say the rosary as a family at the beginning of long car trips. It always started vacation off on the right foot. Mom would pass the rosaries back and we would take turns leading a decade that was part of the mysteries of the day. I will admit, as a kid I did not find this ritual as important and enriching as I do now. Unless your ride to school is very long, a whole rosary will probably be a bit much. But you could say one decade each day- by the end of an average month of school you will have prayed all 20 mysteries of the rosary! Or maybe the morning offering or some other prayer would work better. You could let your children take turns picking the prayer for that day or week. Say the prayer in the morning but also in the afternoon so it stays with you all day.
- Listen to Christian music. Not everyone will go for this one. I LOVE Christian music. My husband does not. I am a car-belter, meaning that I sing along at the top of my lungs to songs I love. During certain seasons of my life certain songs become my theme songs and I listen to them daily, such as Mandisa’s “Overcomer” during a time of family illness and personal depression. You can listen to it here. Or last year my theme song was MercyMe’s “Even If”, which you can listen to here. Because I am not super tech savvy, I bought them and burned them to a cd for my car, but with all the technology available, there are plenty of ways to listen to uplifting music in the car. Here too is a place to get your children involved in the conversation- they could pick the song for the day or the week or sing along with whatever is playing on the radio.
- Keep Holy Cards and other Sacramentals visible throughout the car. A few years ago someone gave me a set of Divine Mercy holy cards to give to my religion students. Because I am not always the best at remembering things, they sat on my dashboard for months. So for months my ride to school and really everywhere was accompanied by the image of Jesus as the Divine Mercy. When I gave the cards to my students, I found myself missing the daily reminder of Jesus visible in my car. Many people hang a rosary from the rearview mirror (I am too much of a rule-follower to do this myself.) Here are somethings you could think about: maybe tape a picture of Jesus, Mary or a favorite Saint to the dashboard where everyone can see it. Or if your child is still in a carseat or booster, pin a saint medal to the seat. In my family we all had a specific seat on the way to school, you could also pin a saint to each child’s spot if they are older. I’ve recently entered the world of Catholic Saint peg dolls with my son, so he often has saints to play with on our trips around town. For older kids, Tiny Saints are super cute and can clip right onto a backpack.
- Rose, Bud and Thorn. I think I have shared this one before, but it would also be a great way of having more meaningful conversations in the car. I think this would work best at the end of the day, but could certainly work in a morning car ride. I teach middle school, so I completely understand the response “fine”. “How was your weekend?” “Fine.” I know parents must get this in the car all the time. “How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.” Rose, bud and thorn can change the questions and responses. “What were your rose, bud and thorn today?” A rose is something good, surprising, successful. “I got an A on my science project.” A bud is something hoped for or looking forward to. “The sports awards night is Thursday.” A thorn is something that didn’t go well, a setback or failure. “The girl I thought was my friend totally ignored me at recess.” When I do this with students in class I always model by giving my rose, bud and thorn first and saying which is which.
- Read or listen to the saint of the day. A parent at my school introduced me to “Holy Heroes” which are the stories of various saints presented as full radio style shows. Their website holyheroes.com has all sorts of great resources. Or if you have kids old enough to read, they could read the story of the saint of the day from an app or book. I really like that our school’s website has the saint of the day prominently displayed right after log in. By doing the saint of the day you will hear about some old favorites like Therese of Liseux and Saints Peter and Paul, but also some that you’ve never heard of. Sometimes the more legendary ones make for great reading.
How do you and your family keep Christ at the center of your car ride? Please comment and share!