(Names are not used to protect the guilty.)
I had to run errands with all the kids still living at home. Had to. I had to take the older kids because they needed to go to the bank. I had to take the younger kids because I had no babysitter.
I found myself stuck in a mini-van in rush hour traffic at 4pm with 4 kids that needed to eat and/or sleep and/or be duct-taped to a tree, as their father likes to threaten in moments of mocking exasperation.
The oldest child was in the front seat, using her electric seat function as a form of torture on her younger teenage sister. She would move the seat all the way back, crowding the territory of her longer-legged sibling. When the screaming, protesting and smacking of the seat was sufficient, she would move the seat forward. Then, like a child, she would repeat this maneuver over and over.
The only boy in the van was paying the consequences (or rather, WE were) for eating way too much sugar at prayer meeting the night before. It was the worst case of SBD's I have ever encountered, despite growing up with three milk-guzzling lactose-intolerant brothers.
For those who weren't privileged to grow up with brothers, SBD stands for SILENT BUT DEADLY, the worst flatulation known to womankind. I was hanging my head out the open window in the pouring PNW rain, trying not to hurl, but, literally gasping for fresh air and trying to rid my nose of the putrid smell that probably burned out what precious few nose hairs had survived my traumatic childhood. Like a morning sickness flashback, I was dry heaving over the side of the mini-van, while wondering if the 5-year old daughter stuck in the backseat with him was going to have permanent brain damage.
To the annoying beep-beep of his Gameboy, the boy was kicking the seat ahead of him in perfect syncopation, annoying his sister with every sensory faculty available to him.
My dear younger teenage daughter was being tormented from the front and from behind, so she did what any good teenager would do - started yelling. She was threatening to throw the Gameboy out the window and threatening the older teenage sister ahead of her. The cacophony of yelling, giggling, gasping for fresh air and fart cliques (he who smelt it dealt it! he who makes the rhyme committed the crime) was a symphony of insanity.
I was in the hot seat, literally, because the oldest teenage daughter kept turning on the seat-warmer on high and cranking up the heat so she could make me think I was having a hot flash, which they all think is hysterical.
So, I did what any good mother would do. I carefully modulated my discipline. I ruled out spanking, ruled out cutting off their allowances (they don't get one anyway), I ruled out extra chores.
I simply reached over, shut off the seat warmer, AGAIN, turned on the radio and CRANKED the classical music. The louder they protested, the louder I turned it up. Because I was still hot-flashing, the window was rolled all the way down so we were the center attraction in rush-hour gridlock.
We drove this way the rest of the way home, four kids yelling and ducking in embarrassment, and the mom serenely driving her minivan, thumping the steering wheel in time to the most beautiful sound in the world.
(originally published 3-8-09)