Last week, my wife and I took our kids on a road trip to visit their grandparents on the other side of the state. It takes roughly six hours to get to their home in rural Mason County, but I’m pretty sure driving time drags out in direct proportion to how well the kids get along. I think it’s one of the laws of physics.
Here’s how it goes:
If your kids get along, then you have a better than average chance of arriving at your destination on time or even early.
If there’s no peace in the backseat of the car, then you can bet the drive is going to be a lot longer than expected.
So it was with our trip.
We were only an hour or so into it when our 13-year-old son started slowing us down. He looked up from his video game and said what he always says when he’s not scarfing down food.
“I’m hungry,” he told us. “Can we stop and get something to eat?”
“You just had lunch before we left,” my wife answered. “You can wait until we get to Bridgeport.” (I digress here a little – but who doesn’t stop in Bridgeport to eat when road tripping through West Virginia?)
“Can we stop anyway?” he pleaded.
“No,” I said as a backup to my wife. “We’re eating in Bridgeport.”
I expected him to turn his attention back to his video game but apparently he was already bored with it. It didn’t take long before I heard the dreaded “Don’t touch me!”
It came from my nearly 10-year-old daughter, and she was angry.
I cringed and tried to act like nothing was happening. But she dragged me into the fray.
“Dad, he’s touching me,” she complained.
“Stop touching your sister,” I said glancing at my son in the rear view mirror and hoping this wasn’t just a prelude of things to come.
My wife stepped in next and tried to cajole our kids into getting along.
“Just keep your hands to yourselves. We’ll be there soon. I promise.”
“But he’s still touching me!”
There’s a point when we all become our parents. I got there when I heard “stop touching me!” for the hundredth time. So, I ended up doing what my Dad did when faced with recalcitrant kids forced to ride next to each other in the back seat of a car.
I pulled over to the side of the road and threatened to drop them off “right here and now!” And, to put more teeth into my warning, I threatened to not even pick them up on the way home.
That never really works. Kids know it’s a hollow threat, so as soon as I pulled back into traffic they were back at it again.
But not for long.
My daughter must have finally just hauled off and punched her brother, because the next word from the back seat was one my son immediately wanted to take back. It started with a “d” and ended with “it.”
As soon as the d-word was out of his mouth, it was quickly followed by “Oh, I didn’t say that” then complete silence.
My wife and I looked at each other, knowing we should say something — to either use the moment to teach a lesson or to at least figuratively wash his mouth out with soap.
But we didn’t. We just let the silence wash over us.
I think my son was worried about possible punishment and my daughter was worried that we might have actually seen her hit her brother. My wife and I, however, were too busy enjoying the peace and quiet. Plus, we were suddenly making pretty good time.