When you become a parent you have to learn to deal with the not-always-stellar behaviour of your own children.
Nowhere does this task feel more difficult than when you’re behind the wheel, spending hours driving kids to and from school, lessons, friends’ houses, and – the mother of all car rides – on the family road trip.
While we might have an idealized version of our children happily singing and exclaiming with glee over the historical monuments we pass along the way, the reality is being locked in a confined space with your children is less than ideal.
Children can find new ways to annoy their parents every day, but it’s in a vehicle where they really excel. The sibling fighting isn’t something unique to being in a car, so, with that as the accepted number one annoyance factor, these others round out our top 10 list of things kids do to literally drive their parents around the bend. (Fret not—we’ve also some tips on how to curb them.)
Kicking, the Habit: “Stop kicking my seat!” Frustrating on so many levels. The constant jarring as the driver seat is slammed into the driver’s back, the discomfort, and the messy boots or shoes marking up the seat during the kicking. Why must they kick? I love the ad for a van which features the benefit of being able to push the second row chairs back far enough so that those little legs simply can’t reach the front row seats. If purchasing a new vehicle isn’t in your plans, try taping a picture of their favourite character on the back of a seat, which hopefully will stop the kicking, or at a minimum, absorb some of the dirt.
Something’s Rotten in the State of My Car: Because we live in “Snack Nation,” conveniently located in “Drive-Thru City,” our kids are often eating in the car, on the run. It’s not just the smell, it’s the mess, the constant demands for ketchup, and the complaints about the food that make this an all-around feast of complaints. And the cherry on top? When they leave the remnants of this food in the car for an unrequested leftover of crusty remains. If you don’t want them to eat in your car, don’t give them food in your car.
Wash Me, Wash Myself: Kids love to write on the inside and outside of car windows. They still think “Wash me I’m dirty” is funny, and even funnier is writing that your brother is a dork. Make them wash the car if it’s that dirty, and solve the inside-writing problem by giving them wet wipes to use as writing tools; that way they can use the glass as a whiteboard and clean it up afterwards. On the positive side, you’re saving on markers, which are messier and more expensive than their fingers or spit.
You Call It Music, I Call It Noise: In the old days, Dad or Mom had complete control of the radio in the front seat. We have that today, too, but surprisingly now we’re the old ones, and apparently we listen to “boring stuff.” Hearing “Can you change the station?” a dozen times in ten minutes is annoying. If I wanted to change it, I would have. So, some kids opt to put in their headphones and listen to their own music, which is fine, until we get to the next annoying habit…
Sounds of Silence: I like it when the kids are plugged into their headphones, listening to their own awful dubstep music, but when I need to speak to them, or worse, have been speaking to them for five minutes before I realize they can’t hear a thing I’m saying, I don’t like them. With teenagers this is particularly challenging, as they only normally respond with grunts at the best of times, and these could easily be missed due to the fact that they can’t be heard over your own radio volume. They need to develop an application that cuts off the music when Mom’s voice commands it to do so. Otherwise, we need to have some rules.
Can we please have doors that close automatically after five minutes of being left open? Listen up, automakers.
Get a Grip: You’ve got them all set up. Little one tucked into their car seat, favourite blanket in one hand, chewy toy in the other. You get into the driver’s seat, buckle up, and pull away from the curb. And it happens. Every. Single. Time. “I dropped my (insert name of most treasured possession here)! I need it! I want it! Get it, Mommy, get it, Mommy, get it, Mommy.” Without pulling off impressive contortionist moves, you can’t get it. And their older siblings are plugged in, can’t hear you, and wouldn’t get it for them anyway. You pull over, you settle them again. You get in, buckle up, and pull away. They drop it. You pull into a Home Depot and buy eight rolls of duct tape and a string.
Open-door Policy: They don’t always leave the doors and windows of the car open. Only when it’s raining or snowing. On the positive side, the whole “door thing” does provide an opportunity to have a fight with a sibling either getting into, or out of, the car. “He shut the door in my face.” “She was the last one out so she has to close it.” “I didn’t know he wasn’t going to get out on my side.” Can we please have doors that close automatically after five minutes of being left open? Listen up, car manufacturers. My favourite? “It’s not my fault I had to open the window. He stinks…” Which leads us to…
Odour-iffic: It’s a small space. Smells fester. They come in on teenage feet, gaseous brothers, perfumed teenage girls and Axed-up teenage boys. No air filter systems are strong enough to compete with the onslaught of these attacks on the nose. Pack along some Febreze and spray liberally behind you.
Looking Out for Number One. And Number Two: There is some sort of motion-activated sensor in young, recently potty-trained children that makes them need to use a washroom within five seconds of getting onto a major highway, with the next exit 34 kilometres away. You have about 17.5 seconds to find this exit before it turns into a ‘natural disaster.’ Of course, should you make it to the exit without any leakage, often the washroom requester will announce that it has “gone away,” and they don’t want to get out of the car to use the bathroom “just in case.” Bribery works. Just don’t bribe them with a Big Gulp.
Safety First: This is a generation who have (luckily) grown up with seatbelts on. Given that, they think it’s a thrill to ride without one. It’s not thrilling, kids, it’s dangerous. I know we’re just going down the street, but studies show us that’s where most accidents happen. Buckle up. But most importantly, shut up about it.