I offered my son money to stop talking. I was running out of options. He said: ”$1.00 is not a fair price. If you give me $20 I will think about it.” $20 was unreasonable, and he knew it. To be fair, I was sure that torturing his parents was not part of his plan; he was just enjoying himself too much. He could easily become a winner of the Entertainer of Yourself Award; in fact, his room would be filled with these trophies in no time.
It was a winter break, and we were driving to a two-day getaway in the Catskills. Tiny, annoying drizzles started falling as our overprotective dog cautiously sniffed every single inch of the car, possibly looking for drugs, guns, poison or anything else that could harm her family. Finally, she settled in the back, squeezing her cute, black head between the passenger and the driver in the front seat, so that she could have an unobstructed view of the road. The two and a half hour drive started smoothly, with the older son listening to music on his iPhone, the younger son watching something on his tablet, and the lucky parents discussing the evolving political situation in Ukraine. As soon as we crossed into New Jersey my younger son began talking, then singing, then making random noises, then back to talking.
There were a lot of things he needed to discuss, or bring to our attention; a lot of jokes he wanted to share. His music repertoire kept expanding, ranging from classic rock to blues to opera to pop. He improvised with various sound effects, changed volume, experimented with backup singing, accents, instruments and lyrics. In the sudden attacks of love caused by his own extraordinary performance, he impulsively hugged the dog so tight that she decided to move back to the front to avoid an accidental man (dog) slaughter.
We’ve always traveled with kids. Even 12 hours across the Atlantic was easier. An airplane noise, lots of people around, meals, movies, and anticipation of the unknown slowed him down a bit. We drove 10 hours to Canada, and 8 hours to Virginia, but then he was younger and calmer; or maybe I was younger and my nervous system was in a better shape.
I’ve heard stories about kids playing X-boxes or watching DVDs in the car. I’ve judged their parents. Overload of electronics at home was bad enough; on vacation kids were supposed to free their minds and enjoy the family time. I did not judge these poor people anymore. Now, I understood like never before that it was a survival strategy.
I asked my son if he could go on his tablet for a little while. He said:”The Wi-Fi is not working.” That explained everything. He asked if he could go on his dad’s iPhone instead. The answer was “NO”. For me it meant a complete and irreversible surrender of my electronics policy, as well as demonstrating my weakness as a parent. So, I’ve chosen to suffer.
He did not drink or eat anything before we left. He went to bed late and woke up early. He was not on steroids or any other medication. Why he was not tired? Where all this energy was coming from? Can I have some of it? I tried to meditate looking at the naked trees and blinding white snow rapidly passing in the window. I wished I had earplugs.
My husband regretted not taking any calming pills with us, though they would not, most likely, help much. I came up with the idea of installing sound proof glass between the front and back seats, with the small window to be opened only in the rare cases of giving commands or passing water and snacks. If it was done in taxi cabs, it could be done in regular cars. I am sure this new option would become quite popular with parents; they would be willing to pay a lot of money for it. But for now we were stuck. The concert continued, a new play was being rehearsed, a stand-up comedy routine carried out. The one-man show performed by our tireless maestro went on. His success was unappreciated, but, nonetheless brought him incredible pleasure and satisfaction.
We had a great time at the Ranch. It was drizzling the first day, but we still went hiking, snow tubing, played pool, scrabble, and saw an awesome comedy show. The next day brought delicious breakfast, pool, a hay ride, archery and riding horses. The mountain air was intoxicating; the forest was covered with pure white snow, in some places damaged by animal footprints. Horses slowly went up and down the mountain dragging their heavy feet through the thin trails, stepping in the dirty watery mess, made by melting snow. It was warm and sunny. I could barely see anything, since sun reflected in the snow completely blinded me. I did not want to go back to the stables.
On the ride back my son significantly improved the length and substance of his performance. It took us an hour longer to get home due to a huge traffic on Washington Bridge. He asked me at dinner why I was cranky. I had no answer.