Friday, August 12, 2011

Are we there yet? How much longer?

We don't let our kids ask "how much longer?" on a car trip.   We just don't.  We start a long trip by telling them how long we think it might take, and then we clamp down hard when they start pestering us with requests for updated ETAs.

But the boys can be pretty creative about finding ways to ask related questions, especially when my husband isn't in the car.  (A soldier dad who has served in Iraq has an air of authority that even a tough Miser Mom can't manage to equal, although sometimes I wish I could).  They'll ask what time it is now, and then start doing arithmetic out loud.  Or they'll comment on the state of traffic, and conjecture what that might do to driving time.

The real problem is not that they're curious; it's that they're most likely to fret about driving time right when I myself am starting to get stressed out -- there's a traffic jam, or I'm in an unfamiliar place trying to navigate, or there's horrendous weather.  And that's when I *least* want to converse with them about whether it's two hours or two-and-a-half hours until we arrive.

So this past Saturday when I was getting ready to be the solo driver from Kentucky back home to Pennsylvania, I decided to have a different kind of conversation.  I decided to address the worry of the question in a way they could understand in their own lives.  They're old enough to start developing empathy, after all.  I'm thinking of this as bringing them up to a higher moral threshold.

I began with the usual spiel: it should take us about 9 hours, although that could change.  We should be home around 2 a.m., although that could change.  But then I added, "When you guys are in the car and you ask me when we'll get home, it's stressful.  It's like me asking you, when are you going to clean your room?"  They seemed to understand, sort of.

We headed out of Lexington and hit traffic right away.  My younger son asked, "Will we still get home tonight?"  I asked, "Will you clean your room tonight?"  And that was the last time either one of them asked the question.

The rest of the drive was mostly uneventful -- a bit of car sickness, a tiny worry about running low on gas, but nothing serious.  We got home at 2:13 a.m., safe and sound, by the way.  Thanks for asking.

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