Adventures Childhood Family

Riding in cars with boys and girls

My family traveled out of town for a visit to see my folks recently. It’s about two and a half hours away, and we normally can pile in fine in one car.

We are a family of four, so that seems reasonable, right?

Well, add to that two dogs — one about 75 pounds — and things start to get squeezed. We have made the trip once in my car, a Honda Civic. Our little dog, Murphy the Excitable Dachshund, is small enough to curl up at my wife’s feet. Maddux the Stoic, however, requires his own seat. On the trip in my car, he wedged in the backseat in between my kids. At one point, my daughter said, “Daaaaaaa-aaad. Help me!”

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw that Maddux had decided it was hugtime and had put both his big ol’ paws on my daughter’s shoulders and just kinda leaned in. I’m not sure what she expected me to do about that while cruising down the interstate, so he was there a while.

Most times, however, we take my wife’s SUV. There is room in the back for the dogs, who generally fall asleep and only wake up if there is a fast food break, when they pop their heads over the back to see if we got them anything. (They’re disappointed 100 percent of the time.)

But for this last trip, both of the kids were bringing friends. That meant six people and two dogs, so my car was out. I offered up various solutions of how to arrange the kids in the back of the SUV, on the car rack, etc. My wife reminded me that this was not the 1970s, and we could not stow our children the way we were stowed. Because she had the SUV, she had the dogs for both legs of the trip. For the trip there, my wife took my son and his friend. I drew the chauffeur for teen-aged girls straw. On the ride back, the boy rode with me and the girls with my wife. I am sure you are SHOCKED to learn those are two very different trips to take.

For example:


The ride there:

“Dad, can I play music from my phone? Can we play some from Katie’s phone?” Over. And over. Finally, I told them we would play Name that Artist, and we would start with MY phone. Out of about 30 songs, I believe they got one correct, and that was because it was some song my daughter had downloaded on my phone. We stopped playing when they guessed Bob Marley for “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” We then switched to their phones. On my daughter’s phone, I did OK, as I have heard these songs constantly. On her friend’s phone, she apparently had one of her parents’ playlists, as she had Kansas, Boston, Journey and the like.

The ride back:

No music. Parker gave a running play-by-play of the Falcons game. Matthew watched a movie with his earbuds in.


The ride there:

A 20-minute ordeal of picking out a snack at a convenience store, along with a detailed discussion at the soda fountain over Coke-Pepsi and Dr. Pepper-Mr. Pibb differences. Most points were responded to with, “I know, right?”

The ride back:

Two minutes, tops, with both boys just grabbing the first thing they saw. Potato chips? Check. Reese’s? Fine.


The ride there:

I am not sure. After about 10 minutes, my brain turned on a steady hum to block out the two talking at the same time, usually including about 43 different names of people who I have never met, and their various interactions. They were both using the social media platform Snapchat at a fervent pace. I had no idea what was going on.

The ride home:

Run down of reptiles and amphibians found over the weekend. Occasional ID of a bird flying overhead, then back to football updates.


The ride there:

The clear winners. They both slept for a good hour. Unfortunately, we were stuck in a traffic jam, and when they woke up and asked where we were, I had to break it to them: About two miles farther down the road.

The ride home:

No sleeping. There was football to track. And birds overhead. Can’t miss those.

Both trips were fine, just different. Glad we made it round trip safe and sound. Of course, next time, I’m thinking we should consider some other options. For example, I could take the dogs, and my wife can take the kids. I’ll just listen to the songs on my phone, including that great Bob Marley hit, “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

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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