I hate to drive. And it’s not just because I drive a minivan. I have always hated to drive. Even when I had the luxury of being in a car alone and didn’t feel like an under-dressed flight attendant, having to provide snacks for dissatisfied passengers (Seat 3b wants a sippy cup! What? You only have cheese crackers?), or when I could actually listen to the music or news that I selected, and wasn’t forced to listen to Elmo shrieking at me or didn’t have to suffer through Top 40 music that sounds like a) a drunken toddler penned it and b) it’s being sung from the bottom of a tin can (holy crap, did I just get really old?) , I never for the life of me understood WHY people went for a drive to unwind. Going for a drive winds me up. I have always found the entire enterprise incredibly stressful, but nothing in the world winds me up more than running errands in my car, the picking up and dropping off, the constant climbing in and out and arranging of bags and boxes and coffee cups that fit in no holder. And I promise, it isn’t just because my car looks like this:
Even if I weren’t behind the wheel of dinged up, dented in, couch-on-wheels, I’d still hate to drive. The only thing I like about driving, and again, this has to match up against all the reasons I hate to drive is this: It is an incredibly effective way to talk to the children.
Car talk is good talk, at least it can be. And it isn’t just because we’re all held hostage — nobody can storm out, walk into another room and turn on the TV, and Crocs and glass bottles aside (ahem, see more here), nobody can even get up to pee. I think it’s because we are all facing forward, all pointed in the same direction, all headed to the same place. Not only are the distractions few, but there is no pressure to make eye contact or keep a straight face. The space is smaller than our dining room, but in some ways feels more expansive than the table because the fidgeter can fidget, the smirker can smirk, and the dreamer can gaze out the window.
Sometimes the topics are weighty. Subjects I’ve saved for a drive. Subjects that may be too embarrassing for face discussion in the round. The eye-roller can roll with reckless abandon and the blusher can blush away.
And sometimes I don’t choose the topics at all, like this one:
Over the weekend I was driving the children somewhere or other and I look in the rear view mirror and notice a child (we’ll call him “E” to protect his identity, and you can all pretend you never heard this should you meet him) put his right hand behind his head as his left hand starts to rub his chest. He does this for a while.
“E,” I ask. “What ARE you doing?”
“Oh,” he says, looking up at me. “I am giving myself a breast self-exam, like it says to do on the thing you have hanging in your shower. I do it all the time!”
“Oh yeah!” Pipes another child, who shall remain anonymous. “I love that thing!”
“What? Are you guys serious?” I ask.
“Of course,” E says. “And now I am making small circular movements and working my way to the center.”
“Nipples!” Cries the other child.
Really. I start to take this all in and then E disappears from sight.
“Where HAVE you gone?” I ask.
“I AM NOW LYING DOWN!” he shouts from the very back of the minivan. “THE CARD ALSO SAYS YOU SHOULD DO THE EXAM WHILE LYING ON YOUR BACK!!”
Yes it does, and yes, he is. And yes, you really cannot make this stuff up.
Only in the minivan, people. Only in the minivan.