“Stop touching me!” she cried loudly when it was her spreading into my spot — driving me nuts!
I yet again fought the urge to use blunt force trauma to enforce the few inches of private space allotted me. Mom, after we turned the deck of cards intended for a simple card game into throw-able weapons, had given up trying to keep us silent and it seemed to me that there was a certain amount of vitriol and chaos hard wired into this equation of three children, all aged in the single digits and crammed into the family sedan back seat with our pillows and books and drawing pads and snacks for the 9-10 hour road trip from Petaluma to Anaheim, California for the much awaited visit to Disneyland and visit with family. Apparently, the science of young girls was such that you could release their noise in small bits or save it for later large explosions of screaming and scratching, but the same amount of net chaos will occur one way or the other. There seemed to be no path to peace.
It was hot and this was before cars had AC or anyone had smart phones to help mesmerize and sedate fidgety children. I don’t think we even had Benadryl in those days because if we had, mom would have spiked my sister’s snacks with it to help them sleep through as much of the trip as the recommended dosage would have allowed. I would have mowed lawns for weeks if needed to buy and so medicate both of the girls by the time we passed through San Jose.
Dad, could be a gregarious personality. Mom was more deliberate about the things that entertained her. Both were miserable and I could tell were rethinking this whole notion of driving so far with the three of us. I wanted to be on their side in this, but was old and wise enough to not mention the obvious solution of pulling over and leaving the girls somewhere while we drove off in serenity. My aunt in Anaheim would never let me get away with such a thing. My parents seemed to be so frustrated that they might entertain the idea. Hmmm.
So, the tensions and tempers rose, sweaty mile after mile,
I stewed and developed a principal that never again would I allow myself to be talked into such a road trip with my feral siblings — except I didn’t know either word yet. I would plan ahead and do whatever job was needed to earn enough money to fly down and meet my family when and if they survived the drive down with the girls. So I tried to close out the noise by looking out the window and visualize how nice it might be to be deaf.
Thus was my memory of road trips with kids when it was my wife and I with our children. Out of the gate we were blessed with the God-sent technologies of mini-vans, AC and strap-em-down car seats. Lord why didn’t I think of at least the car seat idea back when I was trapped with my crazy sisters?
It was on one such trip that we accidentally discovered the glorious side effect of Benadryl which began the temptation of not over-using it. Oh my! This stuff is golden!
So, when the time came for our annual drive from Colorado Springs back to Petaluma, my wife and I strategized and she worked miracles with our fidget-critters by pre-packing and timing the deployment of multiple amusements from fidget bags designed for each child. It was kind of a pain to set up and keep handy as we crossed through the desert wastelands of Utah and Nevada but I attribute our, or at least the children’s survival to those bags and the car seats which solved the whole ‘my-space’ problem. Do they make car seats for teenagers with padlocks?
But, one day, we accidentally stumbled on an idea that I wish we’d had all along that not only kept hostilities at bay but had us all laughing as the miles passed. The kids loved this so much, we often used it even for shorter road trips.
If you still have young’ins, you might want to give this idea a try. It worked GREAT!
We called it ‘Sentence Snake’. The rules were simple.
Each round, one of them would chose a letter of the alphabet; like “T” and started the sentence, e.g. “Tired Tim tried.”
The next person needed to:
- repeat the existing sentence and
- add 1-2 words anywhere in the sentence, but all words had to start with the same letter.
The next person would add another, and another, etc. resulting in ridiculous alliterative sentences that you could not help but laugh at. Soon, they were laughing about how, “Today ,Thursday, tired Tim tried two tainted, tart turkey Twinkies that tasted terribly twisted.” . . and so on.
Soon the sentence and the attempts to repeat grew to something you could not help but laugh at. Mom started facilitating by packing a tablet to try and record the existing sentences which greatly extended some of the delightful nonsense.
Our kids are much older now and we rarely get to have them all in one car with us. Man – I miss those road trips now and can brag that I never had to resort to leaving the kids off at some random street corner in Utah.