Just because I have a lot of kids, people assume I have a lot of kid-managing skills. Not so. In the last twelve years, I have perfected really only two child-related talents: ignoring screams, and buying spaghetti in bulk. Other than that, I’m pretty much where I was at the beginning: terrified, stymied, trying not to let them corner me.
How, for instance, do I deal with lots and lots and lots and lots of time in the car with four small children who have lots and lots and lots and lots of desire to be out of the car? Haven’t figured that one out yet. The reason this comes up is that, as part of my nefarious plan to erase all traces of labor, hardship and inconvenience from my life when we decided to send our oldest four children to a charter school, I have been spending an awful lot of time in the car.
Emphasis on the awful.
The four youngest children always come for the ride in the afternoon, and sometimes in the morning, too. Sometimes they read or play with baby dolls during the ride; other times, they just sit there, quietly soaking their car seats. Of course I know all about portable toys, books, snacks, window stickers, soothing or amusing music, “I spy,” and so on. But some weeks, we spend so many hours in the car, it’s not a matter of passing the time. We’re just living our lives, but in the car, you know? We just do the things we always do, but we can’t get away from each other.
Here’s a little illustration. To comprehend the psychological freight inherent in the following drama, you have to know a few things: first, that the three-year-old
is completely nuts, and likes nothing better than to start arguments about nothing at all; and second, the 18-month-old thinks the three-year-old is a god.
And one more thing: it was raining.
3-year-old: “It’s not raining.”
Little sister, parroting: “Yainin’!”
3-year-old: “No, it’s not raining!”
Little sister, blissfully playing along: “Yeah, yainin’!”
3-year-old, in a rage: “NO, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining, it’s NOT raining!”
Little sister, joyfully agreeing with her idol: “Yain-yain-yainin’!!!!!!!!!”
3-year-old, in a quivering ecstasy of fury: “IT! IS! NOT! RAI-AI-AI-AI-AI-AININNNNNNNNNNG!”
Little sister, transported with bliss at the wonderful camaraderie she was enjoying with her sister: “YAAAAAAAAAAAININ’!”
And so on.
There was nothing that anyone could do. The three-year-old had rocketed so far past the point of reason that she remained in her little orbit of hysteria for a good half hour; and when she came down, she was hungry. And guess what? I had forgotten to bring a snack.
Did I mention we were in the car for three hours that day? I’m just glad we belong a religion that believes in the value of suffering. Because, man, it’s only Tuesday . . .