The morning drive to school can be full of laughter or fraught with conversational triggers waiting to set off perilous traps for unsuspecting parents. 

Take last week:

In my best non-inquisition voice: How is the long division going for you? Are you still finding it easy? 

“Yes.” a confident, proud voice from the backseat quips. The voice gains momentum in pride as descriptions of solved math problems spill out. Glancing in the review mirror, I notice the source of that proud voice sitting a little taller.

Seeing how I am off to a good start, I bring up one of his favorite school activities, creative writing. Again, trying to keep it light, I ask. 

Silence from the backseat. I check my mirror to see a head turned to look out the window. 


An intake of breath followed by a deep sigh comes from the backseat. 

I brace myself; he is taking a chance on me. 

“Don’t blow it! Don’t blow it!” is all my mind is screaming at me.

I have a 50/50 chance. 

I take a deep breath and wait. 

” Mr. Teacher* divided up our composition books into three sections. He writes in the first two sections…” the voice stops, looking to put feeling to words. 

Thinking I can help him, but knowing I am walking a tightrope over lava, I toss out, “as we do sometimes when we make up stories together?” 

A palpable combination of emotions emanates from the backseat. I glance back; the infamous side-eye greets me in return. I can see the battle of emotions over words taking place.  

In a daring move towards humor, “Do you feel like you are doing your teacher’s homework?” I throw out with a smile. 

A “yes” burst out, backed by the perturbed disgust of an artist. ” I don’t want to finish his ideas; I want to write about my own!”  

For the next two lights, a left turn, and three more blocks until I stopped the car next to the school’s curb, the budding writer in the backseat raged at the indignities perpetrated on his creative process.  

As he exited the car, I caught his eye, smiled, and gave one last piece of advice “Try not to do all your teacher’s homework for him.” His whole face lit up in a conspiratorial smile, erupting into laughter. 

Mom understood. 

The black cloud over his head was gone as he ran to catch up with his friends.

As I drove home, I could not help but laugh; only the young creative would see it as finishing his teacher’s work. I enjoyed the moment. Knowing at some point, I would have to explain the purpose of the exercise to him. But for now, in this fleeting moment, I feel good. I made it through the morning drive. 

*Teacher’s name changed to protect the innocent.