I had to psych myself up to get back in the car this summer for another road trip. It goes without saying that children in a car for any extended period of time results in crankiness, hunger and boredom. Ever since the size of my family grew, we began to drive everywhere. After we had our first child, we realized the small fortune it cost to fly was the equivalent of feeding our family for months. Hence, we drive everywhere.
The youngest of our five children feels deprived. She is happy to share with anyone who will listen that she has never been on an airplane. She has never gotten the chance to wait in long lines, get stranded in airports, miss connecting flights and contract thousands of germs inside a claustrophobic cabin with recirculated air. How sad.
There is one consistent problem with driving everywhere. I do not love the way my husband drives. It’s as though he is on a mission every time he gets behind the wheel. He wants to get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time and feels he needs to conquer the road and anyone who gets in his way until we arrive. I attribute every strand of gray hair on my head to his driving.
For the sake of my nerves and basically, for the sake of our marriage, I choose to distract myself while he’s behind the wheel. My favorite thing to do is nap. He will tell you when it’s his turn to drive that everyone takes a nap. It’s true. You could hear a pin drop in our vehicle.
I also have completely strict and selfish rules while he’s behind the wheel. He can listen to music only while wearing a headset. I prefer he use the headset in only one ear so with the other he can hear our children repeatedly ask, “How much longer until we get there?” And, “Dad? Dad? DAAAD! I have to go to the bathroom.” (He tends to tune that last one out.)
This is also how he is granted permission to listen to the GPS system. For a few trips he had it set to a voice called “Boy Band” that sang every direction it gave. When our family first discovered this voice option it was hilarious. That lasted for about the first 20 miles or so. After that, the kids and I were completely annoyed every time we heard the Backstreet Boys sing, “Turn left.” It got old rather quickly.
I’ve since gotten into the habit of wearing earplugs. This is because I have bionic mom hearing. I can pick up any voice or sound, no matter how quiet, within a substantially wide radius. It tends to be a blessing and a curse. It was completely useful when our children were babies and now it’s useful with two teenagers and a college student. The downside is that I barely sleep. I’m always listening for the car to pull up in our driveway so I can breathe a sigh of relief that my children are safely home.
When it’s my turn to drive, the rules drastically change. This greatly annoys my husband. The minute my butt hits the driver’s seat I suddenly feel the urge to talk ... about everything. I feel instantly chatty and like I haven’t seen my husband in days. And, since the kids and I have been napping in the blissful silence, we are ready to listen to loud music, sing in a variety of pitches, and dance in our seats. It’s a party in a car.
After 20-plus years of driving across the country, we finally came up with a solution to my one-sided rules. Now when it’s my turn to drive, our teenage daughter sits in the front passenger seat because teenage girls are rarely short on words. We delve into conversation and sometimes sing (although a little more quietly) while my husband attempts to nap in the backseat. Never mind that he is squashed between a cooler, an oversized bag full of snacks, pillows galore, blankets, backpacks, one teenage son and two little girls with enough stuffed animals to fill a zoo. Basically it’s a win-win.
Lisa Baniewicz is an Atchison resident and mom with five children ranging in age from 8-20 years old.