Eli, take your feet off the back of my chair!
Stop singing – put your headphones in.
Can you play MY music? I HATE your music.
How much longer until we get there? You said 2 hours and now it’s been 5 hours. You SAID 2 hours.
Most of the time I subscribe to the metaphor that the journey is the destination. Not yesterday.
With four kids in the packed car, a cooler with day-old leftovers, pretzels and all the fruit from our refrigerator and the pent-up energy of the last day of school, we headed west and then south to visit my brother.
We’ve made this drive so many times before. It is a long drive and one without many interesting places to stop along the way, which was ok this time since we wanted to make haste and get there as quickly as possible.
For the first half of the drive, all was well. People slept, the music played, we popped in a podcast. I opened the iPad to get some work done. Books appeared. There was quiet.
We stopped for dinner in Bloomington, Illinois, at a farm-to-table pair of restaurants, opting for the sushi-pizza second-floor hipster hangout and $120 later, we were on the road again.
Except something in the sashimi perked the kids’ interests and suddenly there was teen snark barking from the back seat.
You SAID 2 hours. Not 3! Why is it taking so long?
I don’t WANT to sit in the middle row. Why do I have to switch seats?
Until finally, we pulled off the highway onto a deserted stretch of southern farmland, parked the car and got out.
The words came furiously and fast in the sweet-warm dusk, the kind of parental reprimand that comes with an incredibly soft voice and very closeup eye contact.
We were on the road to visit the cousins, headed for a long weekend vacation at the start of summer. We were driving over many, many miles to get to a beloved place and beloved family, to be together, to frolic in the pool and sweet exhausted sleep after long summer days having fun.
No need for bitterness on the car ride there. No need for the kind of backtalk that poured forth from the back seat.
When asked why this kind of rudeness ever even occurs, we were told the kid just couldn’t help it. It just came out.
Not OK. Parenting is that roller coaster ride sometimes that you hear about but never post on Facebook. It’s the why-did-I-think-a-road-trip-was-a-good-idea, the I-never-want-to-go-anywhere-with-these-people-again.
And this was only one day of driving.
Later in the summer, we’ll haul off for a week at the Atlantic Ocean, driving for two long days east and south until we hit Delaware and the familiarity of the salt sea air and the sand sifting through our toes.
In this case, the destination is the destination and that is all. I understand the metaphor. I know the parenting comes in the challenging moments, not when the baby is perfectly angelic in sleep.
Still. Sometimes, you just want to get there and never mind what happens along the way. At least, I’m comforting myself with that for now.