So, we decided to take a road-trip. It only lasted a few days, but the ensuing trauma has been enough to leave me rigid and unable to approach even the most mundane of tasks (other than put on a sarong and wonder just how much bigger I can possibly get in the next two months. Cooking? Forget it).
The main problem is that we don’t like leaving our comfort zone. Mind you, we don’t even particularly like our comfort zone, so generally we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard, child-unfriendly place. But we decided to throw
caution to the wind, and accept an invitation to visit dear friends in Miami. Miami,
incidentally, is 4 hours’ drive from us.
FOUR HOURS IN A CAR WITH OUR CHILDREN.
Now you might well be thinking - how bad could it be? Take my word for it - it’s pretty bad. They HATE being in the car. As a result, we HATE being in the car with them. Just strapping them in exhausts us, and, more often than not, leaves us covered in scratches (think Gorillas in the Mist meets WWF). Since we’ve been here, we’ve restricted our car journeys to trips to the beach – 20 minutes away. These go as follows:
Choose a child, and strap him / her in. Shut the car door, and slump against it momentarily, then check bag for water, wipes, tic-tacs (our new bribing currency), small toys, pashmina, ear plugs. Get into car, turn on radio – HIGH. Turn on air-conditioning – HIGH. Put on pashmina. Put in ear plugs.
Leave driveway. Breathe deeply, swear that today is the day you won’t let them get to you. Realise you can hear, perfectly, the MUMMYMUMMYMUMMYMUMMY mantra coming from the back seat. Curse ear plugs which have expanded lengthways, out of the ear.
Turn radio up higher. Girl shouts: TOO LOUD! Turn radio down. Boy shouts: I WAS LISTENING TO THAT! Turn radio back up. TOO LOUD! I WAS LISTENING TO THAT! TOO LOUD... And so the endless, brain-melting squabbling starts. It lasts until we turn onto the highway (5 minutes), at which point the Boy forgets about the radio (which, incidentally, is stuck on Soft Rock, and the only music the Girl doesn’t complain about is Phil Fucking Collins, for fuck’s sake) because he NEEDS TO DO A WEE-WEE. Hold it in, we implore, I CAN’T he implores louder, YOU MUST we counter, I CAN’T... He can, he does, just in time for us to get off the highway and swerve into a dodgy vacant lot, where we screech to a halt, I bolt out, grab him, pull down his pants, piss sprays everywhere, but I’m too concerned about the appearance of a squad-car (or the dreaded naked-children-police who patrol the beaches cunningly disguised as ordinary people) to care. Back into the car, wrestle, scratch, breathe, ignore, radio, tic-tacs, toys etc.
We have by now been out of the house for about 10 minutes. The Girl decides to ramp up the annoyance factor. I sick, she cries. I SICK! I hand her the sick bowl*. She puts it on her head and makes retching sounds. He grabs it, she screeches and clocks him one on the side of the face. He screeches too. We breathe breathe breathe, look out the window, and count to 5.
Spot on 5 the Boy chimes in. I’m sick too! I hand him the sick bag**. 3 seconds later they are clawing at each other, she wants the sick bag, he won’t relinquish it, and is protecting his territory with full – albeit seat-belt-restrained – vigour. BAD BOY NO TOUCHY ME! GETOFFOFMEPIGGYNOSE! ME NO PIGGY NOSE STINKY BOY! PIGGY-NOSE-PIGGY-NOSE...
I can take it no longer. I turn into my mother and, despite my girth, manage to stretch my arm the full length of the car and flay about like a walrus on a beach. Hand meets flesh, hand slaps and grabs, hand is kicked, they howl, I curse, the Man swerves...
Suddenly – thankfully - we are at the beach. The children are a writhing mass of hair, teeth and claws, wailing and ranting, tangled up in their seat belts, spitting tic-tacs in fury at each other. I find the sunscreen – Phase 2 of Going To The Beach - and look at the Man. “Pick a child”.
So, we were faced with 4 hours of this. We played about 758 games of I Spy, which served only to make us realise that the Boy probably needs some extra tuition (Me: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with “c” – cah cah cah...” (just to give him that nudge) Boy: TRUCK!); we sang every nursery song we could think of (the Girl joining in only when we switched to One More Night); we counted cars, alligators, hitch-hiking serial killers. Eventually I gave up and pretended to sleep, leaving the Man to sing, entertain, threaten and despair. And then the demented GPS lady sent us God-knows-where in darkest suburban Miami, which is an hour of our lives I hope the children have blocked out.
But we all survived. Just. And then did it again, in reverse (not technically – although as kiddie entertainment goes, we might have to try that sometime.) When my nerves have returned and my hands have stopped shaking, I will rustle up something in the kitchen to share with y’all. (Or possibly not: I have discovered the wonders of ready-made-pizza-in-a-carton, and realised that there is nothing that isn’t improved by being covered in cheese and put in the oven. Bear with me.)
*We don’t leave the house without the sick bowl now. In addition, she won’t go to bed unless she’s clutching the sick bowl. It’s her new security blanket. Darn uncomfortable, but less likely to wear out that a traditional blankie, so we’re happy to accommodate her. Not entirely sure how we’ll handle the flight home however.
**Actually just a plastic supermarket bag, but don’t tell the children that.