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The Carpool Protocols

I'd like to propose The Carpool Protocols, a manual that addresses the realistic needs of parents as they put their children in the care of others to share rides to and from common destinations.
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There are some parts of "it takes a village" that just need a complete overhaul. Take carpooling: Families have been carpooling the same old way for decades and let's face it, life has only gotten more complicated in that time.

Hence, I'd like to propose The Carpool Protocols, a manual that addresses the realistic needs of parents as they put their children in the care of others to share rides to and from common destinations.

The new rules:

1. There is no snack competition.
Yes, 12-year-old boys are ravenous when you pick them up after school and head for soccer practice. Yes, they likely have already eaten their after-school snacks at 10 a.m.. And yes, the carpool parent will need to provide some form of substenance or risk having the car's leather seats gnawed on. But does this really have to be home-baked cookies, foot-long Subway sandwiches when they aren't on sale or sushi from the great Japanese place 10 miles out of my way?

Only the foolish will attempt something like "everyone is responsible for their own kid's snacks." Anyone with any amount of carpool experience knows there is always one kid who brings no food or brings something way better than what everybody else has. Backseat sharing is a contradiction of terms. The last thing anyone wants in the car (besides spilled liquids) is a food fight.

Can't we just all agree what snacks will be provided and not deviate?

2. Snack deadbeats shall not be tolerated.
If one parent always does the pickup from school (when the kids are hungry) and another parent always does the drive home from soccer practice (when the kids fall asleep in the car), the first parent is shelling out extra money each week. It adds up and can be substantial. Resentment will build.

A monthly snack budget should be set and split equally. Since there is no snack menu deviation allowed (see #1), this should square things up nicely.

3. Schedules are set in stone.
If you have a sudden conflict, you cannot, will not and do not get to make it my problem. You drive when you are supposed to, so will I, and that's all she wrote. The only exception to this rule requires a note from the emergency room doctor. Manicures and just learning about the big sale at the mall do not qualify as valid reasons to not drive when it's your turn.

4. Drivers, unlike teachers, may not be replaced with an uncertified substitute.
You may ask another carpool group parent to cover for you (word of advice here for the dense: Don't ask me.) but you may not make random substitutions and ask your visiting unemployed brother-in-law -- the one who last week you complained drank all your good Scotch in one sitting -- to drive my children. It's your day; you drive.

5. Carpools must function as a direct taxi service.
We do not make stops at the grocery store, dry cleaners or post office with other children in our cars. We do not leave children unattended, even -- especially? -- as a group for any reason, for any amount of time. We do not "just run in for a minute" ever.

6. Carpools, as a direct taxi service, do not pick up additional passengers.
I harken back to when a mother driving in my carpool decided to throw three additional kids in the car as a favor to a friend. Problem was, she only had room for two. She was working on double seat-belting when my daughter texted me "the funny picture" of the shared seatbelt. Mommy didn't laugh.

7. Carpools are a full disclosure operation.
We disclose every occupant of the car in advance. We disclose location, whereabouts and all in-car conflicts in real time. After-the-fact disclosures about bloody noses are unacceptable.

Child occupants should text or call upon pickup and delivery. Moms want to know this stuff, even those of us who have installed GPS locating devices in our children's smart phones. If there are traffic delays, the kids need to let the waiting-at-home parents know.

8. Carpool policy on getting sick.
We understand that children get sick on occasion. Carpool opinion varies sharply on whether a sick child should be transported by others. While some prefer the humane approach of driving the fever-ridden child home -- which comes with the added advantage of being able to later gossip about the child's insensitive mother and your wonderfulness for being willing to transport him -- others maintain that the carpool should remain a germ-free zone, a sanctuary where only the well are welcome.

Sick happens. I happen to be blessed with two kids who rarely get sick (did I just jinx it?). My husband, on the other hand, catches colds the way Willie Mays did fly balls -- frequently and spectacularly. And my husband does most of our family carpooling.

If your kid is sick, I say, keep him home from school. If he gets sick at school, come get him. If you don't like this rule, just be aware I keep a can of Lysol in every glove box and am not afraid to use it.

9. Stupidity while driving is unacceptable.
Carpool parents should not text while driving. They should also never drink and drive, do drugs and drive or smoke cigarettes in the car with kids. Be stupid on your own time.

10. Carpools can be unformed as quickly as they can be formed.
While ostensibly, carpooling saves money and time, it often doesn't feel worth it. Dealing with other people's family rules and values, if they aren't aligned with yours, can be a pain in the behind. Figure out just how much you are actually saving vs. the aggravation factor, and maybe what your village really needs is a paid driver instead of a carpool.

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