My daughter and I fought daily throughout her teen years. Sometimes rather viciously, which I’m sure comes as no surprise. Since then, we’ve settled into an agreeable, parent/adult-child, besties-kinda-relationship. That is, until we slide into the front seats of a car.
Recently, we took a trip to visit my sister, our annual 4th of July excursion to Vermont, where we ordinarily celebrate our nation’s birth with great gusto and ample amounts of goofy behavior. Since I’d be starting a job the following Monday, teaching an intensive week of theater camp with 6-11 year olds, we agreed that I’d drive up and she’d steer us home. I no sooner turned the ignition key, when bam, the fighting began. Granted, it was a hot day, hovering at a steamy 90 degrees, which meant the inside of her black-upholstered Elantra, could’ve been mistaken for a sauna.
The nit-picky disputing began over fuel and where we’d gas up. She vied for Gulf, a station on the left side of the street, one that she preferred, and bitched and moaned when I passed it by. After filling up at the local Pride, we argued over which was the best route to I-91, a highway seven or so miles from our house. Each time I flicked on the directional, “why are you going this way?” slithered through her lips. Tired and cranky, I handled it like a petulant teen, as two days prior, I’d gone to bed at sunrise, and hadn’t fully recovered from that back-flip into adolescence.
I’ve never liked being told what to do, with 12 years of Catholic school to thank for that, and she managed to activate all those authoritarian buttons. Having just completed her Masters in Social Work, my daughter wears confidence the same way I exude self-doubt. I often feel myself shrinking in her presence. As tired as I was, I rebelled, just as I did back in high school, and she didn’t like it one single bit. So, we fought our way to I-91, then fought our way up the interstate.
You’re going too slow!
Don’t backseat drive!
You’re going too fast!
Make up your mind!
Watch out for that truck!
Shit, let me pull over, so you can drive.
We bickered like this all the way to my sister’s. The relief from getting out of the car was palpable.
On our way back home, I thought about our vehicular quarrelling. How we seem to erupt whenever we drive together, these days, quite often in my daughter’s newer car. We both carry considerable baggage that fuels our fears. Along with that, comes the need to control. It’s something we both wrestle with, and seems to rear its ugly head when we’re trapped inside the confines of an automobile.