I have an infinite amount of patience 98.7 percent of the time. It was blessed upon me at birth (or cursed; long story for another day). It may be my greatest asset (or it’s 1A, with 1B being my inability to smell which makes feces clean-up or a 2 a.m. puke clean-up a task I can more easily manage than others). I like to think I’ve had a calming influence on most I’ve interacted with over the course of my 45 years on this planet.
But I go crazy when it comes to tying things. Or securing things with straps. Or doing anything with ropes. A Boy Scout I am not.
The night before we headed out on our latest and longest-to-date family road trip, I took on the responsibility of figuring out how to use our recently purchased dog harness/seat belt. I was in favor of tossing the dog in the trunk like I used to hang with my sisters in the family station wagon as kids of the 70’s and 80’s. Very safe.
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But my wife informed me we needed to be more concerned about Mia’s safety. Mia, our mutt rescue, looks like the perfect mix of a Gremlin, the Hamburglar, and an Ethiopian Wolf. She’s cute in a “What exactly is she?” kind of way.
I couldn’t figure out the effing harness. I watched the instructional You Tube video; I carefully read through the instructions. I must have heard or read the phrase “Simply place the buckle” 112 times and each time I lost it. Stop insulting me with your “simply." Nothing is simple for me.
My wife and daughter eventually figured it out because they are female and smarter and we would crash and burn without them.
At 6:20 a.m. we are all in the car and ready for lots of hours together in a tiny tube-like structure. The dog is perfectly secured between the two kids in the back seat. They’re all asleep by 6:33.
It’s an adorable scene, but I’m also annoyed. These three have it so easy. Wake up, grab a blanket, walk thirty feet to the car and collapse. They don’t have a reminder list. They don’t have to stay awake and aware. They don’t have to care about anything.
I drive the entire trip. My wife has no choice. I’d like to say it’s a manly/protector type deal but it’s more sinister than that. I need her not driving. I need her as navigator, planner, and captain of the ship. She owns the GPS and route changes on the fly, online grocery shopping for the following week, and Yelp factoids for restaurants at our destination. Basically everything. I can then just concentrate on nothing but driving and carefully and safely daydreaming.
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I don’t remember exactly when we agreed to do it, but my wife and I are now comfortable cursing in front of the kids. They’re still not allowed to partake; in front of us at least. I’m cool with my son throwing the occasional f-bomb as an angry outlet. There is a power in that word that exceeds all others and if used properly, it can be a great tool for anger management. My daughter, never. Yes, a double standard. I don’t care.
When you are stuck in traffic for 50 minutes straight in nowhere Virginia, desperate for lunch and in awe of the ETA Google Maps is informing you, you have to do something to survive. I chose imitations to break the monotony. Imitations in various accents with a plethora of curse words. Good dad moment it was not. But I killed with my audience. I did Southern accent, I did Mid-Atlantic accent (look it up), I did snobby 80’s accent, and I did the accent of specific people we know who shall remain nameless. Some day I’ll share the bits with all of you. They’re good.
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I can name ten road trips off the top of my head that were frickin awful. Some were as little as an hour in duration. The moments when jumping out of a moving car seems like a viable option. Moments when you hear yourself say things like, “Stop putting your gum on your sister’s ear,” or, “If you kick my seat one more time, I’ll cut you." Once you arrive at your destination, it takes a good hour to recover.
This one was not one of those. This one was special while it was happening. We all felt it. No drama, no screaming, very little complaining. A ton of laughs.
My son has become mature and witty and knowledgeable on any topic one could dream up. I could talk to him for days.
My daughter is a dreamer, looking at all moments as an opportunity to have fun. She would want to play UNO while in the ocean. And really mean it.
My wife and I shared more than one glance at each other that said, “We kind of nailed it.”
My son is 15 and my daughter is 11. I don’t know how many more trips there will be where they are at least semi-interested in hanging with us. While I don’t miss the back-seat shenanigans and the “he/she did it," I crave having them securely under our control in the car. I still see those little kid faces under the pubescent cover. I still remember when their car seats faced away from us and we had to put a mirror on the back seat to be able to see them and to make sure they aren’t choking.
I’m not ready for driving lessons.
I’m not ready for hormones.
I’m not ready to witness their heartbreaks.
I’m not ready for college visits.
I’m not ready to not hold hands while we walk on the boardwalk.
I could have driven for 48 hours straight.
This was written by essay was written by John Markowski, who writes about writing, his garden, fatherhood, aging, the Mets, and the mundane in his publication, Mundane Alley. It originally appeared on Medium.com.
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