ARE WE THERE YET?

I have never understood the appeal of family road trips. I mean, in theory, it does sound nice to spend some time with family without the interruption of phones, TVs, computers and general busyness of life. It also sounds nice to use the time to do things that you might not otherwise do. You can read books, catch up on sleep, do puzzles and card games…

But honestly, what’s the reality here?

If you have children, expect to hear “Are we there yet?” on repeat like a broken record.

Most, if not all of you probably live at the same residence, so what’s the chances of anyone having anything new to say? And if by chance, you do have something to add to the conversation, there won’t be hours worth of content.

You’re in a confined space with no escape. Problematic if there are belchers, farters or annoying siblings with knee jerk reflex issues. Imagine being in a car with these people for several hours; it’ll test the patience of a saint.

There are minimal bathroom breaks so you can’t be drinking too much liquid or risk the embarrassment of roadside bush prickles in your butt and indecent exposure. Plus no-one wants to be tooted by a passerby.

More importantly, to us at least, road trips means sharing music space. No one listens to their own music with solo headphones because there’s no fun in that. So, it can get quite heated in the car with everyone dissing on each other’s musical choices.

Our latest road trip took a total of seven hours, so we devised a “fair” system where each person got to choose a song of their choice to be played upon their turn.

My four-year-old son was happy to forfeit his turns to his eight-year-old sister, who tortured us with Disney songs from the movie Descendants. Although, I’d never admit this to the husband but l kind of like the sickly sweet and catchy pop songs.

My husband chose Barry Manilow’s Mandy and did a silly Dad rendition, an ode to our daughter’s name. It wasn’t a surprise that the children pretended to vomit and yelled out “Yuck!” He followed up with songs from Wig Wam, Diablo, The Darkness and Iron Maiden.

I’m not a fan of heavy metal or rock bands but the husband believes he is “expanding” the children’s musical tastes. He’s actually had some success. One of our daughter’s favourite songs is “Sandstorm” by Darude. He’s even gotten our daughter into Gloryhammer!

I like mainstream music. I don’t mind pop, hip/hop, R&B, country, indie or dance. I don’t know what that says about my personality other than I’m easy. Instead of going for current chart songs, I went with the classics. I chose Gloria’s “I Will Survive” because it has hooks that are catchier than covid. Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” made the cut. Not a single person enjoyed my selections. It really says more about them than me, right??

Eventually, we got sick of playing musical merry-go-round and left Ballad Collection by X Japan on for the rest of the road trip. Our son stopped asking “Are we there yet?” and fell asleep. Our daughter pulled out a few books and was content for several hours.

With three long hours of the road trip left, no bickering over song choices and quiet from the children, I found myself moaning… “Are we almost there yet?”

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THE MEETING OF THE PARENTS

Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is a daunting experience. Will they like you? Are they nice people? Will you like them?

Conversely, having your parents meet your partner for the first time is equally stressful. What if they hate him or her? What if they don’t get along?

For some people, these what-ifs have the potential to be deal breakers.

However, I’m of the opinion that having your parents meet your partner’s parents has the most potential for problems. To me, that’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Who hosts? When and where? Who pays for the meal? Who should reach out first? What if there are glaring differences or clashing personalities… quiet vs outspoken, paleo vs vegan, huggers vs non-huggers?

A poor outcome could impact on the couple’s future.

Recently, my brother and his fiancée had their parentals meet. I forewarned my brother to keep dad’s alcohol beverages to a minimum in a bid to prevent his brain-to-mouth filter from disintegrating completely. I reminded him of my experience where dad (a few beers in) thought talking about his prostate problems and cystoscopy (with detailed explanation of how the tubing goes into the penis) were good conversation starters. I suggested perhaps reminding dad about common social etiquette and avoiding controversial discussion topics.

But my brother wasn’t worried. In fact, he wanted dad to be himself… warts and all. It actually made me feel shit for being embarrassed by dad’s lack of decorum. While I worried and stressed over having the perfect meeting, my brother was self-secured and unfazed by any negative eventualities. He took things as they came. I wondered if my fixation of having my parents present a good impression made me a shallow person?

According to my brother and our parents, the meeting went well. With no language barriers, the men discovered that as young lads they were neighbours in Vietnam. They had similar tales of their refugee experience and found many commonalities. Both had no qualms pulling out their cameras, phones and tripods to record the meeting. My brother said the women got along well and my mum even invited them over for tea, which is unheard of for my extremely introverted mother.

I’m happy for my brother. Having the in-laws and our parents gets along is wonderful and I wish it were so in my case. Unfortunately, for me, there is a language and cultural barrier and both sides aren’t particularly eager to find common ground. It makes organising special occasions like the kids’ birthday parties difficult, usually with only one side invited or two events held.

Sometimes I wonder whether things could have turned out differently had I been less anxious about formalities and etiquette. I wonder whether the relationship between the parents could have taken a different route had I bridged the gap in cultural and language barriers. But ultimately, I know I am not responsible for the actions or inactions of grown adults. I had no control on the situation or situations that have occurred since.

I hope when it’s time for me to meet my children’s partner’s family, I’ll graciously set aside my ego and reserve judgements. I hope I will embrace them with open arms or at least be civil. I would do this for the sake of my children and their happiness.

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THIN LINES OF LOVE AND HATE

Cackling laughter erupts from afar
Loud, boisterous and carefree
Warming my soul and bringing a smile
I’m heartened by the sounds of child’s play
Not but a moment later
A woeful wail ensues
Stomp, thud and slam
A shrill cry pierces the air
My temporary peace shattered
Mummy! Mummy! Mum!
Sibling love and rivalry
Adds another wrinkle
To this worn mother’s frown

School holidays are a test for every parent’s patience. Let’s hope our sanity is kept intact long enough to send these squirts back to school!

 

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