816 North Opinion

Riding in a car with boys

I had the thought that something was weird as I drove down our street. But why? Something’s different. Something…

“Hey! When was the last time the three of us did anything together?” I asked the boys.

No one had an answer. That long.

I had been in the car with both of them separately, of course. Eleven-year-old Noah needs a Mom Taxi while teenage and driving Luke needs me when I’m attached to my wallet — but the two of them together? Just us?

Contrary to all my parental Be Yourself lectures, I don’t act the same with each of my kids. They’re different people, so why would I? The things we have in common, the language that we share, the history that we have and the way our individual personalities mesh are all different.

I tend to cut-up more with my daughter because she’s goofy like that, too; I’m usually Composed Mom with the boys because it’s easier to embarrass them, though there are situations when a little embarrassment is in order.

“Geek on, you gorgeous, dorky nerd!” I hear from Bekah all the time.

“Can you not?” I hear from Luke all the time.

Silent eye roll, I see from Noah all the time.

The conversation halted after the boys and I agreed that we don’t usually go anywhere together. The 20-minute trip was looking like it was going to be silent, awkward and unmemorable. I kept quiet, I didn’t want the only thing that happened to be 20 minutes of eye rolls and “Can You Nots.”

Comfortable silence between family members isn’t a bad thing. It says, “I will still love you even if we aren’t bonding every minute.”

But I wanted to bond with them, together. My boys. The more I thought about HOW to fill the silence, HOW to make it special, the more uncomfortable it became.

Both of them were staring out their windows — Noah in the back seat perfectly still with his head on his hand in the universal “I’m bored” pose; Luke next to me with his leg rapidly twitching up and down while his fingers played drum on his thigh even though there was no music.

Me wordlessly fretting about how to fill the silence with future memories.

Luke broke that silence when he flipped on the radio and immediately changed the station.

“No, go back!” screamed Noah in that real-life, unfiltered way siblings talk to each other.

“Baby.” Luke muttered but turned it back. “Oh! I like this song.” Then he started singing.

I braced myself for Noah to shout in his brotherly way, “Shut up, I like it, too, you’re ruining it!”

I quietly started singing, expecting Luke to voice annoyance.

When he didn’t I got braver and louder with each line of the verse.

Luke and I dueted through to the chorus; I peeked at Noah. Gone was the “I Wish I Was Anyplace But Here” look. Instead he was facing forward watching us front-seat karaoke. I caught his eye in the rear-view mirror.

And then he was singing with us.

It was like one of those fake family car trip scenes on TV… only real.

The three of us sang the entire song together. No fighting. No insulting.

Luke smiled when it ended. “Hey, Buddy, wasn’t that fun?”

Something different filled my head for hours later: a looped-soundtrack from that special moment on a very real day, “All of me loves all of you ….”

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. To hear the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.

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