Last week, my son and I took a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. I used to find the drive up and down the 5 Freeway boring. The only thing that was remotely intriguing to me was In N Out Burger at Kettleman City. So I would always opt to fly.
Things changed after I had my son. I now prefer the 5 Freeway over flying. Flying this short flight is a hectic rush. Between trying not to pack too much, avoiding liquids on the plane, and getting through security with a 3-year old, a carry-on, and a stroller, I never felt relaxed. On top of everything, for whatever reason, my son always demands milk instead of water or juice on the plane. Sometimes, security would let me take milk on board, other times, I would have to dump it, since it wasn’t classified as “infant formula.” On the plane, flight attendants were never too happy to serve milk because, apparently, it was in limited supply. The reaction I got from ordering milk was what I would expect to get if I were asking for a shot of tequila instead – disapproval. With driving, I can carry a gallon of milk in my trunk and no one dares question it. For all of these reasons and more, driving is now my preference.
That same mundane scenery on the 5 is now my peace, entertainment, and quality time with my kid. Ironically, I get to have more tranquility in the car than I do at home. My son usually does a pretty good job of entertaining himself with books and toy cars for 30 minute spans. 30 minute sessions of peace and quiet are hard to come by these days. During my last road trip, one of these sessions was interrupted by my son demanding that I get off the freeway. When I asked him what he needed, he replied “the sun is in my eyes and I can’t read my book.” I told him I had to stay on course. He said, “fine, can you just turn off the sun then?” Turn off the SUN? How can I not love spending time in the car with him when he thinks I’m omnipotent? He wouldn’t have thought that if we were flying.
Driving also allowed me to provide Thai lessons to him. We played games like naming what we see with Thai words. Once I caught him playing finger puppets, with his left index finger talking to his right one. The left said “where are we going?” The right answered, “to FranCEESco over the Golden Gate Bridge.” Then the left said, “oh, look at the mountains!” The right scolded, “that’s not mountains, it’s called “Poooooh Khao (mountains in Thai), remember that!” I’m not sure if I would get to witness my son having a language conflict with himself (or his fingers) if I wasn’t driving.
We sang too. Well, I should say my son sang. Since he turned 3, he claimed exclusive rights to singing. He decided that my husband and I should no longer sing along with him. Maybe he only wanted to hear his own voice. Or maybe he figured out that we were tone-deaf. So I patiently listened to him sing while I drove. First I heard his little voice behind me belching, “es es es em em em” to Rihanna’s S&M. I started to wonder if it was appropriate for him to listen to current music. Surely, it wasn’t the right time to be learning his alphabet. Then he started to sing along to Fun’s We Are Young, focusing on the part, “friends in the bathroom, getting higher than the PIE-UH state (Empire State).” I really questioned myself if he should be repeating that. The last straw came when my son enthusiastically sang, “can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, let me know.” Forget you Flo-Rida, the radio was OFF!
My longest peace was when he took a nap. I turned the radio back on and whistled to Flo-Rida’s song (it was played a lot). My tranquility came to an end when my son woke up yelling, “I need to go POO POO!” I looked around and there was no exit in sight, so I pulled over on the shoulder, parked, and turned on the hazard lights. I got my son situated on his portable potty, on the floor, behind my seat. A few minutes passed, a highway patrolman pulled up behind us, walked up to my window, and asked, “car trouble, ma’am?” I told him no, but explained that my son was doing his number two in the back. The officer looked utterly confused, so I rolled down the window for him to see the action. He was speechless. The only thing he was able to say was “why couldn’t you just pull over at an exit?” I smiled and politely asked him if he had ever potty trained a kid before. He said no. So I explained to him that I only had a small window to get my kid on the potty. I couldn’t afford to wait till the next exit – the consequence would have been dire. He was amused and stayed with me until my son was all cleaned up. That was some serious public safety service if you ask me. Again, I wouldn’t have gotten that on the plane.