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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

I Got In The Car With My Kid

We came through the mountains just in time before the snow started falling to slick up the twists and turns of the Colorado and Utah roads thanks to us leaving about eight hours sooner than originally planned from Minnesota. We had driven all night and day, and evening was around the bend as we maneuvered through the road construction to transition from I70 to I15. We hoped the snow to the west of us would remain there while we plunged ahead to the south where plenty of rain waited to deluge us in the dark. But first, we were hungry. And we smelled bad. That happens when two adults are in a car for a long time stopping briefly for gas, bathroom, and snack breaks only as needed.

We came up to Beaver, Utah, and there it was, beckoning to us like a warm oasis from the cold wind. Denny's.

"Please, let's do a full stop. I need some comfort food," I pleaded with my twenty nine year old son as the exit came closer and closer. I could smell the aroma of the pot roast on a bed of mashed potatoes and vegetables drowned in brown gravy in my imagination. Unfortunately, it was better in my mind than in reality.

"I agree. I need a good break." I knew his head was flooded with images of messy burgers and fries dipped in a combination of mayonaisse and ketchup. He pulled in.

The reality of our stankiness addressed itself as we started climbing out of the car. We were yucky. "But, we smell," I stated. "Bad."

"Mom. It's a Denny's. I promise you there are people in there who smell as bad or worse than we do." He was correct.

This was the last vestige of a week-long road trip from Southern California and back with my eldest son so he could go hunting with his father in Minnesota, where all of us are originally from. Roughly twenty eight hours drive there, he hunted while I visited friends and family, and another twenty eight hours back, just the two of us in my Mazda.

The original plan was for him to drive with his father, but his father had to fly out. JD needed to bring some stuff back with him, so he needed to drive. I offered to go with him stating, "We can even take my car so you can leave your car with your wife." And off we went.

You would think, being I am Gen X and he is Gen Y, that I would be the one who preferred head-banging 80s big hair rock music. Nope. That would be him. Thankfully, he curtailed it a little. We settled on 80s on 8 on Sirius XM. That way we could both be satisfied as I prefer my music to be more mellow. We got a nice variety. I did have to put on some Howard Stern to keep me awake at one point when I was driving. I think he was shocked I listened to a shock jock. But, hey. He was interviewing Bruce Springsteen. Not to mention, I am full of surprises. I'm not just a mom.

A lot of people thought he was nuts. How many adult kids can handle a long road trip with their fifty some year old parents? This was not my first adult kid road trip rodeo. This was my third. I had taken two others with his siblings.

My first trip was with my baby girl, my daughter, who hates it when I call her my baby girl just like I hate it when my mother refers to me as her caboose kid. When she was eighteen, we took a road trip from Southern California to Idaho to visit family. No other reason. We also had a minor dispute about music. Only because she insisted, and she still does, that we have vastly different tastes in music. Um. Wrong. Her playlist included Toni Braxton, Journey, and Maroon 5. Her tastes are almost as eclectic as mine. The music was great. The trip was great. I don't get her dispute.

There was one setback. We did run out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert. We waited for hours for help to show up. We tried AAA and car insurance to get us help, but no tow truck driver would come out where we were. After nearly five hours sitting there, a highway patrol and a local tow truck happened to come along simultaneously. Us two damsels in distress were saved! We learned a lot about how we each handle stress in that situation.

My second road trip with one of my adult kids was a year and a half ago with my middle child, JB. (Yes, JD and JB. Sometimes I confuse them too.) We were again headed to Idaho. This time, it was the entire family for a wedding. However, no one had the guts to get in the car with him and I because they all knew he and I would spend much of the trip singing along with the music. JD took his wife and kids in his own car. We didn't follow. We only kept in touch via text here and there. My daughter and JB's fiancee flew out together. We didn't care. JB and I happily took advantage of the situation. We blared rock, opera, Gospel, pop, whatever. And, we threw in some audiobook and comedy stand-up for good measure. The best part was at the end of the trip, my daughter and JB's fiancee ended up in the car with us on the way back cause their return flight got cancelled. Karma.

These trips were not all fun and games. Besides running out of gas, we had car sickness, political disputes, control of the AC, "are you really gonna eat that in here?", deer, plenty of deer, rock dings on the windshield, and who had the right of way conversations. I should not forget the question of, "can you go any faster?"

Overall, these trips were amazing! Here is why all parents should take a long road trip with each of the their adult children at some point.

As children, I was not their friend. I was the parent, the ER tech, the cook, the cleaner, the child psychologist, the laundromat, the disciplinarian, the taxi driver, the teacher, and much more. Even when I got down on the floor and played, I was still parent. Because when push came to shove, I had to be available to push so they wouldn't shove. I pray I did a good job.

Now, with them all grown up with lives of their own, I can evolve to the position of friend. However, that comes with some requirements. Evolving to friendship requires personal growth of a nature I haven't done since I was a teenager/young adult forming friendships with my peers. Today, my children are now closer to being my peers. It can be difficult to comprehend where that boundary can be and should be crossed.

Packing for these trips means there is no room for judgment, fixing someone, coercion, criticism, or taking advantage of an opportunity to get someone back on track. The only opportunity in the car is to get to know a person in a whole new way; the opportunity to make a brand new friend out of an old acquaintance.

I learned that my kids are not who I expected them to grow up to be. They are all way off track. And they are better for it. Because the track I had set for them was not right. They found, are finding, their own paths.

I highly recommend leaving your judgments behind, your lectures, your memories of the times they destroyed your things, and get in the car with your adult children, one at a time. Take a trip - an unnecessary trip. Go ahead and use up that gas. Don't plan for every possible thing that could go wrong. In the wrongs are where the rights happen. Where the excitement takes place. Where the journey leads to new discoveries. The destination is the Hitchcock mulligan. The road is the movie plot.

Shut up and let them talk. All they want. Open up and listen.

When it's your turn, tell them something new about yourself. Tell them the story about the time you did that and how you almost got into big trouble but you got out of it because you figured this thing out. Those are the best stories. Share your heart. Share your excitement for them. Share your excitement for yourself without them. Show them your confidence in them.

Best of all, show them the you you've been hiding from them because you spent all those years putting your every ounce of effort into being the perfect parent so they could grow up to have the perfect life. Now, you've realized perfect is a fallacy. Being real is where the fun is. Have fun with your kid!

Are you brave enough to take that trip with your kid?

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Thanks for reading!


Humor In Chaos


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