The Car Ride From Hell

Today’s parenting question is:  Is it just me or does anyone else agree that siblings and lengthy car rides are a recipe for disaster?

Maybe it is just my kids.  All I know is, the mixture of my children and lengthy car rides is like a lab experiment gone awry.  I was reminded of this toxic combination on a recent trip to visit my mom and sister, who live about an hour away.  Since my kids were excited to see their Nana and aunt, and spend time with their cousins, the ride there was quiet.  After an enjoyable afternoon, we decided to make the short drive from their home to Athens (Georgia, not Greece), to show our daughter (age 17) the University of Georgia campus.  Since UGA is her top college choice, we thought it would be motivating for her to see what her future could hold (a clever Georgia Tech fan commented we should have taken her to Tech to see what a better future could hold…but I digress).    The children (ages 17, 13 and 12) were fascinated by the college campus, so it provided a great distraction.  After a short visit, we headed home with the ride starting off uneventful.  It was early evening and everyone was tired, so I assumed (memory lapse or wishful thinking) that they kids would listen to their MP3’s, maybe even dozing off, for the long ride home.  Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  My daughter and youngest son were seated in the middle row of our SUV with a console separating them.  My oldest son had the backseat all to himself.  About 30 minutes into the drive, the car ride from hell began. 

It started with my oldest son asking if he could eat a slice of pound cake, which his Nana had sent home with him.  I told him he could not.  He continued by informing me that he had already eaten it and was just curious as to whether or not it was okay, apparently for future knowledge.  That is when I knew trouble was a brewing (think Gremlins, the movie).  The pound cake incident obviously did not bring the desired result he was hoping for, so he then decided it would be entertaining to remove his shoes and prop a smelly foot on top of the console between his brother and sister.  He slid his foot from side to side making sure they both were able to equally enjoy the aroma.  This action prompted his siblings to deliver a series of elbow blows to his foot, causing him to scream and writhe in pain, tattling that they had hit him for absolutely no reason.  They, in turn, decided to scream at him and then at me to make him stop and then at each other just because they could.  At one point, my daughter decided to take up documentary filmmaking, videoing her brothers, which prompted them to try to wrestle the camera away from her.  My last nerve dangling by a thread, I joined in the fray yelling at them to knock it off, wildly pointing at them and calling them by their first and middle names (nothing good has ever come from this and you think they would learn, but no).

For what seemed like an eternity, there was screaming, screeching, hitting, grabbing and name calling coming from almost every corner of the vehicle.  It was like an episode of Jerry Springer.  Exasperated, I commented to my husband (who had somehow managed to drive unimpeded) that if anybody happened to glance inside our vehicle they would surely think we had all gone mad.  My youngest son overheard my comment at which point he began to laugh and said, “I love my family.  We are better than cable.” This caused everyone to start laughing thereby diffusing the situation.  Thankfully, the car ride ended with everyone intact, living to ride another day.

The kids/car ride thing is nothing new to me.  It does not matter that my kids have plenty of items to occupy their time (i.e., books, music, video games).  Once the car ride reaches around the 30 minute mark, my children inevitably regress and begin behaving like tantrum throwing two-year olds.  Super Nanny, where are you when I need you most?  I am sure it could be viewed as some sort of family dysfunction or bad parenting.  Who knows, maybe it is.  The great thing is, in our family, it only takes one moment of humor to stop the madness and bring us back to a FUNctional group, at least for a little while.  My son was right, our family is better than cable.

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