Last weekend, me and my boys went on a road trip to visit our family and friends in the Bay Area. It’s roughly five and half hours of driving from Eureka to our ex-home town where we stayed with my in-laws for two nights. An hour back north, we stayed with my folks on the third night and drove home from there the next day.
When our kids were smaller, a road trip, even a modest one like this, could be a misery-laden whine-fest with umpteen-million bathroom breaks. Brother and Young Son are eight and six now. What a difference a couple of years makes!! We had a ball. Sure, they were squirmy and road-weary after many hours in the car. But they were champions about it and kept the conversation rolling with inquisitive questions and fun made-up car games of their own invention.
On the way South, Young Son suggested we take turns saying something we’d like to have in our crazy-dream house. I kicked it off with goats. Brother spent his first five or ten turns on specific individual comic books and comic book series’, then branched out to art supplies and rooms with padlocks on them. Young Son said things like a really good action figure and every single Bionicle ever made and hamsters.
On the car trip home, we stopped to stretch and fix the duct tape on the car in a parking lot in Laytonville. The duct tape covers the gap in the drivers window that won’t roll all the way up as well as a hole in the opposite front bumper. The high speeds on the freeway make it come flapping off so sometimes we had to pull over to fix it. While we loosened our sitting muscles in the parking lot, the boys invented a game where they imagined their own super heroes. Young Son created an evil character named ‘the Bomb’ and Brother was the good-guy called ‘MorningStar’. A CHP cruised through the parking lot to check us out, I think. I just nodded and continued taping the bumper.
Back on the road, their super heroes were fighting each other. Without any interference from me, it was a rare and perfect sibling interaction with no argument. One of them would say what their super hero was doing to the other one, attacking with bombs, or whatever, and then the other brother would take a turn to say how his super hero would react and fend off the onslaught. Throw in a little math: Young Son, “I have 20 troops not counting my skulls. I have 10 skulls.” Brother, “Then you have 30 troops altogether.” (Be still, my proud homeschooling mama heart.)
That’s what I love best about homeschooling, by the way. It makes you uber-aware of all the teachable and learning moments that arise out of everyday life when your kids are just having fun. Its a beautiful thing to witness.
Further north, as we drove, I heard from the back seat, “Mom?”
Young Son asked me, “Is 100 an odd number?”
“100 is an even number because you can divide it evenly into two groups of 50,” I responded.
Brother put in, “50 is an odd number.”
Me, “50 is an even number, actually, you can divide it evenly into two groups of 25. 25 is an odd number.”
Later, Young Son, “I made up the number a willion. A willion is as many people as there would be if Earth was as big as the sun. I made up a thillion, too.” (A thillion is even more, if you’re wondering, although I’m not sure exactly how much more.)
By this time we’d made it pretty far north, to the stretches of winding two lane freeway through the redwoods. Its hard to go through there without getting stuck in a row of six cars behind a huge slow RV. Being in a line of cars tootling along made me think of Christopher Robin when he tells Pooh that an ‘Expedition’ is a ‘long line of everybody’. And when they do go on it, Eeyore is in the back followed by half-a-dozen of Rabbit’s smaller friends and relations. When I thought about it that way, I didn’t mind so much being in the back of the ‘long line of everybody’.
Very few people know this about me: I love to sing. I’m shy about it because I’ve been told I’m not great. I seriously can’t tell, I sound okay to me. Anyway, what I lack in talent and tunefulness, I make up for with volume. This past winter, while we drove an hour to the snow, I made up my own version of the classic road song, ’99 bottles of beer on the wall’. Mine is ’98 antlers of deer on the wall’. Get it? It rhymes! MY song is both kid-friendly and educational. The antlers on the wall are hung in pairs, naturally, so you skip-count backwards by twos. Bonus: that makes the song half as long. Even so, every time I tried to sing it in the car with my family, I was shouted down and overruled. Same thing on my way south with the kids on this trip. But when we came back north, they must have been pretty bored, because they let me sing the entire song, start to finish, 98 to 0. Mama #win.