I have loved both my children and my green Subaru Outback passionately since their arrival in our world in 2011. Greta and the “Subes” were delivered about two weeks apart. Yet, the addition of our sweet, amazing service pup Emerson has thrown off my ability to pack the car for my own road trip survival. Before Emerson, on any trips longer than an hour, I placed a cooler, box, or giant bag strategically between the children in the back seat. This allowed them to speak to one another but prevented touching and seeing. For a while, Geoff affixed the Go-Pro to my sunroof on trips assuring the children the clips would be emailed directly to both God and Santa Clause. Although, my kids don’t have snapchat or cell phones, or an addiction to Fortnight– yet anyway– I do think it would add credibility to say that even the Eye of God uses You Tube to track his people, and they best stop touching one another.
However, Emerson is a 75 pound of loving lab, and the family configuration is better when I put the single seat behind the driver’s side down flat so he can lay down. Otherwise, when placed between the children, he ends up putting his head between the two of us in the front seat as if begging to be rescued. At least when they were tied down in the safety harness of those giant car seats, they could not actually touch each other. And as they grow, so- follows their power to annoy, irritate, push one another’s buttons, etc. But a cool thing happened when they turned 6 and 7 or 7 and 8– can’t remember when it started exactly– they started to see each other as a possible friend or playmate. They sometimes WANT to play a game together or work on a crossword puzzle. They may even want to TALK while looking at each other. In trying to facilitate this, I’ve actually probably taken years off my own life due to the stress it’s now caused in the car especially.
They won’t always drive each other (or us) crazy like this. What is that terrible cliche? The days are long, but the years are short? I may have screwed that up, but the only people who say that must have amnesia from the times they too pulled the car over to then turn around and scream at the children in the back seat. Later, they will annoy each other in different ways, and probably in ways we can’t even imagine right now. I remember my own parents telling my brother and me back before there were rules about car seats certainly. My brother and I actually really like being in one another’s company now; in fact we are headed to visit him and his family. I can’t imagine him leaning over to yank my braid as an adult, but he sure as hell did it a lot as a kid. Along with kicking my feet on the couch. You know the deal. You each are sitting on one end of the couch kicking the other’s feet for not other reason than to annoy them.
But for any parent who has witnessed the magic of offspring playing well with one another– maybe creatively, maybe artistically, maybe even just watching the same show together and chatting about it– you recognize the beauty as it happens, and then it ends, normally abruptly because someone leaned too hard on someone else’s arm or leg or thought it would be hilarious to startle them coming from the bathroom or take a grape from their bowl or hide the bag of Cheetos mom said she would never buy and then did in a weak moment because Price Chopper was packed and the line wasn’t going anywhere fast, and so mom went back on her word. Yes, with a bag of Cheetos because I won’t actually eat Cheetos so it’s a win win. And no one should make me feel bad about that. If they do, then they must also have had amnesia or never experienced the pleasure of taking more than one kid to the grocery store at 5 on a Friday, and they are not my friend. But then you put the Cheetos in two bowls and tell the children there is the exact amount for each of them. These are challenges I know I will miss when they are 17 and asking to borrow my “Subes” to meet up with friends together. The stress just changes but never goes away.
“Stop touching each other” for us this summer has come in the form of:
- one placing hands around the other’s neck
- one scratching the other down his flanks
- one hiding the other’s shoe or favorite stuffy
- one pulling on the other’s braid or ponytail
- one pinching the other’s belly fat
- one slapping the other’s naked butt after a shower or tubby
- just to name a few…
We crushed this summer of fun home together, and I love the memories made even as much as a good family road trip. But for the love of God, please stop touching each other. Unless like tonight you’ve decided to sleep together on the air mattress; in which case I approve of your snuggle wholeheartedly.