Driving has always been my escape. I dig the open road, the windows down, a little AC/DC on the CD player.
And then I had kids.
Kids change the whole “freedom of the road” experience. They arrive in your backseat one day, like some squishy, crying VIP that you need to chauffeur around, and nothing is ever quite the same again.
These days, with three kids between the ages of 1 and 6 lined up in the backseat, I find that driving in my car has become more about predicting what insanity/chaos/comedy might erupt at any moment.
And in my careful studies of backseat life over the last 6+ years, I’ve come up with a list of the cream of the crop when it comes to who exactly I’m hauling around back there.
So, for those of you about to become parents and those who already know that driving around with kids is equal parts madness and delight, here are eight types of kids you’ll have in your car.
And don’t think kids can’t be all of these, even at once. Because they can. And they will.
1. The Droppers
This is one of the first you will ever encounter and it’s also one of the WORST.
I know it’s harsh for me to put it this way, but I don’t care: babies suck at holding onto binkies and bottles. They just do. And they cry bad when they lose the only thing they care about in this whole damn world.
So what happens is you either get really good at flopping an arm towards the backseat floor to try and save the day with a remarkable snag in moving traffic or you’re constantly pulling over into mini-marts or strip malls to get out and find their lost treasure.
2. The Car Poopers
Ugh. Seriously? We were JUST at home with an army-sized supply of wipes and diapers and a nice changing table to get your little butt all cleaned up on.
It doesn’t matter though, does it?
Some little ones love the hum of the tires on the highway so much that they show their overwhelming joy by crapping themselves every single time you get a half-mile from the house.
3. The Pukers
One of my all-time least favorites. With three kids, I have dealt with enough backseat spit-up/puke to float a battleship across Times Square. Maybe I hit the curves too quick? I dunno.
Regardless, there is nothing as soul-sucking as riding down the road on a winter’s day, everyone singing Christmas carols together, snowflakes swirling lightly outside the Honda, and looking into the rearview at the exact moment that a 3-year-old unleashes a spew of orange juice lava over everything and everyone in his path.
4. The Complainers
“Are we there yet?”
“Why is it taking so long?!”
“I’m so bored that I hate your fat face, Dad!”
When kids are tired or feeling a little irksome, they complain. And nothing makes a car ride worse than a steady stream of nagging coming from the backseat.
Sometimes when this happens, I hit certain switches on the dash and announce that I’m activating the EJECT SEATS and that the culprit can fully expect to be launched into a passing cornfield in T-minus 9-8-7-6 …
5. The Boxers
Once you have two kids back there who’ve reached the age of 3 or 4, you can be absolutely certain that, if they are within even a long arm stretch of one another, they will bop each other in the face way more frequently than most parents ever want to admit.
The trick with backseat brawls is not to crash. And the trick to not crashing, I have found, is to adopt a hollering voice that terrifies both kids AND YOU at the same time. Yes, you will give yourself a headache and feel massive pangs of guilt. But it’s worth it to feel so much power in the front seat.
Life is hard/be loud.
6. The Snot Bubblers
Oh my lord. This one kills me. How can a kid not know that THERE IS A SNOT BUBBLE THE SIZE OF A DEER’S EYEBALL popping out of their left nostril??!!
I look in the mirror and I see one of my kids just nonchalantly staring out the window (snot bubbles always seem to come during the rare calm moments), a small planet being birthed out their nostril, and I freak out inside!
What is going to happen here?! Where is that thing going to end up?! Not on the sleeve! Please not on the sleeve on the way to school!!
NOTE: Always have boxes of tissues in the passenger seat. Carry no passengers, just tissues.
7. The Hungry Vikings
I don’t know why I continue to let my kids eat in the car. Maybe it’s because we’re on the go a lot? Maybe it’s because I’m a complete idiot?
Regardless of the real reason, the fact of the matter is that kids under, say 15, seem to eat food in a moving vehicle much the same way that I imagine grizzled, starving Vikings used to tear into a barely cooked turkey leg whenever they set foot on shore after a long bout at sea.
They attack the snack and let the crumbs/sauce/fries fall where they may.
8. The Conversationalists
You know, I realize I’ve been harping on all the dark side stuff that kids get up to in the car, but that isn’t really fair.
Lots of times, at least three or four miles can go by where you have a remarkable conversation with your 4-year-old or are blown away by the rambling intellect of your 6-year-old. And that is a truly beautiful thing, let me tell you.
Kids are really great traveling companions a lot of the time — especially when they’re fast asleep. But when they’re just sitting back there talking to you, listening to you, and smiling at you in the rearview, those are the best times in the world.
Even if someone is packing a snot bubble.