This is my minivan.
These are my children.
Count them: one, two, three, four, five. Five siblings in one minivan. Five siblings who are involved in a slew of different activities, which means we spend most of our evenings cooped up in a small space.
A curious thing happens when we step into the minivan as a family: we enter a different reality where fighting and strategically annoying the person closest to you becomes the main form of entertainment.
The entertainment usually begins while still parked in the driveway. After getting everyone seated and buckled (which takes 20+ minutes), I turn on the radio (first mistake). My 4 year old daughter, taking the lead role in the family dramatics, screams and cries (with actual tears), “No music! I hate music! Music hurts my feelings!” I turn off the radio (second mistake). Consequently, the other four play the part of tragic heroes, vigorously defending their right to listen to music. Loud theatrics ensue (a big, loud fight) and these theatrics continue until I threaten to turn the van around (we are still in the driveway– my kids look at me like I have lost my mind, and maybe I have).
When the actual drive begins, (reversing out of the driveway) the movement of the van triggers movement of arms and legs. Although buckled, they can still kick and poke and hit whomever is in reach. The calming sound of the radio is replaced with:
“Mom, Graham’s touching me!”
“Mom, Sylvia is kicking my seat!”
“Mom, Esther is singing! I hate her singing!”
“Mom, Grace’s feet are on my seat!”
“Mom, Owen is looking at me!”
“Mom, Esther is breathing on me! Mom, make her stop breathing!”
Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Constant, incessant saying of this simple three letter word becomes like nails on a chalkboard. And they try to pull me into their fray but I remain an impartial driver/mom. I stay on the sidelines for a minute, (let’s be real, 30 seconds) and I become part of their theatrics. I eventually threaten to turn the van around again (we are two streets away from home). All goes quiet.
But the quiet does not last; the next phase of the drive, (the most grueling portion in my estimation) is the question segment. And just like with the bickering,every question starts with the word “mom:”
“Mom, are we there yet?” (again we are just 2 roads away from our house)
“Mom, when will we be there?”
“Mom, how much longer?”
And this somehow leads to philosophical questions:
“Mom, since dinosaurs are all dead, are they in heaven?”
“Mom, when are you going to die?”
At this point in the drive, I’m at my wit’s end. I say, “if I hear the word ‘mom,’ one more time, I am going to lose it!”
And my 4 year old son takes the bait: “Mom–?”
Out of patience I shout,”Whaaattt?”
And my four year old calmly responds, “Mom, you know Jesus lives in your heart–right here (points to heart). Mom you shouldn’t yell like that.” At this moment I start brainstorming new standard features for today’s family vehicles:
Vending machine: Children can’t complain with a mouthful of food.
Dividers: a barrier that pops up when kids begin fighting, poking or looking at each other. Sort of like the bumpers in kid bowling.
Solitary confinement: sound proof glass that boxes in seats for those times when one child cannot reign it in and will not stop fighting with siblings.
Privacy glass between driver and passengers: The minute someone starts to fight or complain, a partition of glass goes up.
An eject button: when all else fails.
The next day, I drive my 14 year old daughter to her activities with no one else in the van, she says a total of two words to me. Suddenly I miss all of the questions and complaints. She would have used all of the minivan features I thought were so inventive, on me (she would add a muzzle to the list and put it on me right before she ejects me from the vehicle). Lesson learned: enjoy the questions and the talking and even the complaints of your kids, because one day that will end. I am now eagerly awaiting my teenage daughter to want to talk to me and start a sentence with the word “mom.”