Childhood Family

Respect the cows.

I just completed a 1,500 mile road trip with my family, and I am pleased to report that we will never, ever go on a trip in a car again.

I say this not because of my family, but rather because it feels like someone has inserted hot needles into my lower back. I am sure this pain will subside in due time, and by the time we are ready to head out again, I will have forgotten the white-hot intense pain that sitting in a car for eight hour stretches does to me. Plus, I have taken the proactive healing approach of reminding my wife every six minutes that my back hurts.

Fortunately, my family is getting to where they can travel in a fairly civilized manner. My daughter is 15 and my son is 12, so the main issues that arise are summed up in two sentences that were repeated my son approximately 43,000 times:

  1. “Allie, I can hear your music. Turn it down!”
  2. “Allie’s Snapchatting again.”

Ah, little brothers. As my three older sisters would no doubt agree, they are wonderful. His first complaint is rather trivial. My daughter has her earbuds in perpetually, usually listening to Broadway songs. If he can hear so much as a peep from “Hamilton,” time to sound the alarm.

The second one comes because of our constant warnings to the kids about using too much data on their phones. We made a mention once that the social media app Snapchat can be a data hog. And, since my daughter is 15, she is Constitutionally required to Snapchat every waking moment of her life to her friends. That said, I don’t need Deputy Parker to enforce our data laws constantly on the interstate. Sheriff Mom will handle that in due time.

As we were driving (and getting constant updates on Allie’s music volume and data consumption), my wife and I reminisced on how this was waaaaaay better than traveling with them at other stages of their lives. We thought of the stages:

STAGE ONE: One brand new child. We drove to Florida, and she screamed. The. Whole. Time. When we discovered that Elmo would practically hypnotize her, we became car TV converts for life. “La la la la. La la la la. No screaming…”

STAGE TWO: One toddler, one brand new child. Toddler is old enough to inform us that brand new child is ripe, something we could already determine because, you know, we have the sense of smell. One particular time, brand new child decided to evacuate everything possible, and just for fun did it during a torrential downpour. I pulled off at the first interstate exit we came to — with toddler giving running commentary the whole way — and pulled into a fast food place. Turns out, this was probably the sketchiest, filthiest fast food restaurant ever, and I managed to clean up a brand new child while he was balanced on a raised knee, lest he come in contact with anything associated with a Sketchyburger restroom. Meanwhile, my wife and toddler had the pleasure of sitting in the car, windows rolled up because of the storm, with toddler commentary going strong about the wonderful smells her brother had left behind.

STAGE THREE: Two kids, both mobile, both communicative, both wanting to watch a different movie at the same time, despite the fact that there was only one TV. This was one of the times my wife went Super Jedi Mom and laid down the ultimate mind trick on both of them. After miles of squabbling over, I don’t know, which Toy Story to watch, we had both had enough. My wife does not often raise her voice. Thus, when she does, it comes with some serious gravity. She whipped around in her seat and barked, “PARKER! ALLIE!” They both stopped and looked at her. She pointed out the window to a field — “THERE ARE COWS. NOW BE QUIET!” They both immediately went mum. After a few miles of silence, I quietly said to my wife, “Cows?” She said, “It worked, didn’t it?”

So I guess we’re at Stage Four, teen and a pre-teen. I guess the next big road trip we take will be Stage Five, two teenagers. Perhaps at this point, they will both be so consumed with social media and massive data overuse they will simply ride for the duration of the trip in silence. Granted, if they do start to get out of hand, I know how to handle the situation.


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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