I was on a road trip with my kids earlier this month, and somewhere along I-71 all heck broke loose in the backseat. You see, my kids don't like to travel light. They have to bring along coloring tools, books, Nintendo games, Ipods and DVDs for entertainment. Then they have to have pillows and blankets and a special stuffed animal for cuddling during naps. This all makes for a crowded space, and anyone can tell you that 'tween girls and crowded spaces are a recipe for sibling bickering.
The comments started about an hour into our trip.
"Get off my side." "Get your stuff away from my stuff." "It's not on your stuff!"
Mom, who's not a great driver under the best circumstances, tells them to knock it off RIGHT NOW OR WE'RE TURNING AROUND AND I MEAN IT!
But about two hours in, the throwing began.
"Here's your dumb marker!" (throws marker!) "You did that on purpose! Here's your dumb book!" (throws book.) "Ow! That hit me! Mom, she hit me!" "She threw the marker first!" "I didn't throw it hard like you threw the book." "Yes you did. I have a mark to prove it!"
Fortunately, we were approaching an exit at this point. I drove off the highway, pulled into a Wendy's parking and gave the old "I've had it lecture." I'VE HAD IT WITH THE FIHGTING. DO YOU WANT TO TURN AROUND? DO YOU WANT TO NEVER VISIT YOUR COUSINS AGAIN? BECAUSE AT THIS POINT, I'VE HAD IT WITH ROAD TRIPS. I AM NOT GOING TO DRIVE FOR THREE MORE HOURS WITH THIS SORT OF BEHAVIOR. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?
The fighting continued. I got out of the car and told them they could figure out how to get home on their own. They of course didn't believe me, but the separation calmed us down long enough for the siblings to knock it off and the Mom to gain enough composure to take on I-71 again.
So I'm just a little sympathetic to the New York mom who told her bickering kids to get out of the car. Granted, she actually drove away from them, which I don't think I'd do unless we were only about two miles blocks away from home. Still, there are times when parents reach that proverbial end of their ropes, and no knots are strong enough to hold onto.
For some reason, parents don't like to admit that we came dangerously close to losing it with our kids. Maybe we're haunted by those pre-kid declarations we used to make, where we said no kid of ours would be able to behave like those little banshees we just saw at the grocery store. Maybe we've read too many self-help books that say there's no excuse for yelling and if we'd just abide by the books, we'd be perfect parents. Maybe we're used to reading news accounts of other imperfect parents, and we're afraid someone is going to record the voices coming from our windows on Monday mornings when nobody wants to get out the door in time to catch the bus. Maybe we're surrounded by other parents that seem perfect, parents who never seem to raise their voices around kids.
Women's magazines are full of stories telling women to quit comparing themselves to skinny models and actresses who can afford personal chefs and trainers. Love the bodies we're in. Strive for health, not perfection. Maybe parents need to take this advice. Maybe we need to quit kicking ourselves for not being the perfect parents we imagined we'd be. Maybe we need to give ourselves points for the days we do manage to stop the fights before blood is drawn, and the times when our kids say, "You're a great mom" and quit focusing on those moments where we almost lost it. Strive for healthy families, not perfection.
And at the very least, share our transgressions with our friends, so we can support each other instead of trying to put up a false front that's bound to fall apart.