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Every parent with more than one child has dealt with it. On a long roadtrip after the kids have played numerous rounds of the “Alphabet Game,” finding all the letters on signs; when they’ve worn out the game of “I Spy With My Little Eye...” you come up with new suggestions for them. “See how many license plates you can find from different states,” or one of my favorites, “Let’s name the capitols of every state.” You sing songs - as many as you can think of—and still, they get bored.
Out of boredom, the kids will taunt one another. Bickering back and forth, “Stay on your own side;” and “that’s mine!” are commonly heard. “Eventually comes the plea, “Dad, will you tell her to stop touching me!”
As the parents, you do the right thing: turn up the radio and act like you don’t hear it for as long as you can. You hope they they will work matters out on their own without your intervention. Sometimes the childish behavior can be very humorous, though you dare not laugh out loud—that could weaken your position of authority.
Eventually centrifugal force will take over. The smallest curve in the road can cause one child to lean or slide into the the other child, pressing them against the side wall of the car. “So sorry. Dad took that corner kind of fast.” For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction - except in this scenario where each reaction becomes a little stronger than the one before. They will push their foot against the side of the floor board, pressing even harder to emphasize dad’s erratic driving.
Saving the ultimate threat as your ace in the hole, you use the three system: “You’d better both be on your own sides of the car by the time I count to three! One! Two!” Generally order has been restored by the count of two. But, order never lasts long and you are forced to count again. The children become willing to test you, so you resort to fractions. “One! Two! Two and a half! Two and three quarters! Two and seven-eighths! Two and fifteen-sixteenth’s ...”
You soon realize you lost them at “two and a half!” Their dispute will continue until you finally snap. “That’s it! I have had enough!” You declare, then unleash the ultimate threat, the grand-daddy of them all: “Do NOT make me pull this car over!”
Such a threat is usually effective. If not, a deceleration and light touch on the brakes, while letting the tires touch the rumble strips, or gravel shoulder will instantly bring an angelic change in juvenile behavior. All the while you’re left wondering what would happen if you did pull the car over? You might end up being like a dog chasing a car - what’s he gonna do if he catches one?
Traveling with pets is no different.
Our cat, Edgar, thinks he’s funny. He is small enough, he can sleep most anywhere he wants in the car - but, he chooses to sleep in the big space that belongs to our dog, June. My wife and I both told Edgar to move. Aloof to our orders, he acted like he couldn’t hear us.
June said, “Edgar, please get out of my spot.” Edgar smiled with his eyes closed and didn’t budge. June said, “Edgar, move and let me lay down. I’m tired.” Edgar continued smiling with his eyes closed and replied, “I can’t hear you. I’m asleep.” June gave in, “Fine Edgar, I’ll share my space with you.” June sat down in the seat laying her head on the top of the seat back.
Edgar woke up. In shock and disbelief he said, “You are not sitting on my head! Yes, you are. You’re sitting on my head.” Edgar opened one eye, his other eye pressed shut. “You’re squishing my face June! Get off my face right now!” He demanded.
June sighed and said, “I can’t hear you. I’m sleeping.”
Oh the joys of traveling with children.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/tom.palen.98