Do I have to turn this car around?!!!

How many of you are parents to elementary age kids? Have you ever used this phrase during long trips?

The difference between long trips and being at home is that everyone is in a confined space and going someplace. When you arrive, there is adequate space to run around and play and hang by your knees from some terrifying precipice. But while you are in the car, you can play car games or listen to music and that’s it.

Since we had 3 kids in the family, I, as the oldest, would sit in the middle of the back seat to separate my brothers. This did two things: it mitigated my cigarrette-smoke-induced car sickness, and it kept my brothers from beating each other to a pulp. By the time they were in upper elementary school, they’d graduated to “He put his fingernail on my side of the car,” (hence putting me in the middle to prevent that) and “He looked at me funny!” You could predict with 98% accuracy that this would begin about forty-seven minutes into the car trip. If left unchecked, the animosity would escalate into name calling and tears. Why tears? Because if they started threatening each other, my dad would attempt to paddle them while simultaneously driving the car and he wasn’t specific on his targets. If he did not, I would ball up my fists and hit each boy in the chest in a single move that would impress Chuck Norris. Either way, there would be tears. (Because I never got caught doing this, I rarely got in trouble at the same time as my brothers.) Nevertheless, my dad would pull the car over and tell them to be quiet before he gave them something to cry about. He had a technique of spanking that was somehow related to his skill as a percussion instructor. There was this snap of the wrist that would sting…

What did my brothers call each other? Booger-head, ugly-face, stupid, meanie, nose-picker… They had limited vocabularies.

We find ourselves in a confined space, going nowhere, and having differences of opinion. Of Course, we have differences of opinion! We all have different cultures, different growing environments, different experiences. We have the benefit of having lived through our own private hells. We have seen the beatific and the horrific. We are now adulting. (Adulting never used to be a word. Adult was what you aspired to be as soon as you discovered you could walk from here to there but had to hold hands when you crossed the street.) We do not have the luxury of being “sent to our rooms” because our rooms still have modes of communication. So we find ourselves in an enormous car as part of 328 million people in the back seat.

What brings this up? I’m seeing people who are parents and grandparents NAME CALLING! That’s right. But now they have bigger vocabularies, though, in most cases, not more extensive imaginations. We see people bullying others who don’t agree with them. We are seeing people shoving and pushing others and threatening violence and not a clue what they’re fighting for or against.

Remember when we misbehaved and we got grounded? We railed against the total injustice of it and tried to sneak out the window or send messages to our friends to break us out. There was always someone like the Fonz who would influence the “bad” side. Well, we got grounded because we did something stupid that endangered us or the people around us. Well. Duh! If you had the flu, didn’t you stay home from school and everything else? If the only thing you had to do was put on a mask to go out, wouldn’t you have done that? Well, we went out in the middle of a pandemic with no protection and no sense and got grounded, and the first thing we did was rail against an all-powerful government. Doesn’t that sound like teenagers? Yeah, throw those books on the floor and stomp around your room. The adults are watching the news and drinking wine while the kids are locked in the bedrooms.

Oh and our parents would tell us what to think when we were young, too. “Danged WPA! Look at these political cartoons in the paper! The country is going to the dogs I tell you!” Then we’d listen to the news and get a running commentary from our folks. After graduating from high school, we were expected to listen to the news and make our own decisions.

Well, now the commentary is coming directly from the newsmen. You tune into whatever politics you like and get their version. You find the same facts as every other news provider, but you get a completely different interpretation. We don’t ask questions regarding what we hear, we just want to know is that news or fake news? How can there be fake news? Isn’t that against the ethics of the news organizations? What escalates the situation is that people are NOT doing their own thinking and are lashing out at everyone around them with no big sister to chest punch them into submission. They are using unreliable sources of information. They’re taking rumor for truth. They’re ignoring rational thought and logical debate and have descended into elementary school behavior! You are ADULTS!

You WILL get along and you WILL be nice to each other or I WILL make you VERY uncomfortable! Don’t Make me turn this car around!

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