This column is not about children, it is for children. It is for those children who will find themselves trapped in a car they didn’t buy heading to a place they didn’t choose.
Your parents will tell you lies about how much better car travel is today than when they were young. They will conveniently leave out the fact that they were never straight jacketed into a car seat, or embarrassingly tethered to a booster seat that you know is for babies. They are right that they never had videos to watch; but what they did have was the freedom to kick their brother and quickly retreat to their side of the car as the wailing commenced.
You’ll sometimes hear your parents talk about “learning a valuable lesson”, and if you listen closely, you’ll realize they learned these valuable lessons by screwing up. They leave out that part, and they think they can pass that valuable lesson on to you by not letting you screw up. They are wrong.
A very valuable lesson you will learn while driving on those long boring trips is that even though the cat is crying really, really hard, and you feel so bad, if you open that cage door even just for a little minute to pet him and whisper you love him and you’ll be there soon, that cat will shoot out of that cage like a bullet and go under the gas and brake pedals. This is the valuable lesson your parents thought you could learn by simply being told, “never open the cage”. They were wrong. NOW you know that lesson for yourself.
Whoever is driving will make a big show out of how hard it is to be in charge of driving the car. This person is not really telling the truth, because being the driver is the best part of being in that car. They will tell you it’s because they have to deal with traffic and focus on the road and not get lost; the hardest job in that car is actually the person who has clean up when your sister gets car sick, find the stuff for itchy mosquito bites, and figure out how to dry the bathing suits before they start smelling funny.
Parents will tell you dumb stuff they used to do in the car when they were your age, and most of it is because they’re remembering it all wrong. They will tell you they used to count groundhogs, but they will forget that someone always lied and it always led to a fight. They will tell you everybody used to play the licence plate game and they will tell you it was so hard to get the letters Q and O and the number 0 and you’ll point out 7 vanity plates in a row that have all of them and wonder why this game used to take them 6 hours to play.
Your parents will also conveniently forget there was once a time before airbags when you didn’t have to stay in the same seat all the time. If your sister was tattling and throwing used Kleenex at you and pretending she wasn’t, your Mom could say, “that’s it, I’ve had enough, you sit up here and I’m coming back there” and you could sit up front with your Dad and pretend your sister was dead.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is the most used phrase on any road trip: “Because I didn’t have to go back then.”