That mushroom cloud you heard about in Australia a few days ago? That was us. Yep, sorry. No worries if you didn’t notice. But it happened. For real. A full on nuclear meltdown. All three of us. It was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Days later, the fallout is finally under control.
I knew it would come, and in fact, was expecting it. I was actually surprised that it happened right on schedule. Back when I was planning I was realistic that the 3 of us, although we hang out a bunch, would be together almost exclusively 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No play dates, no extra-curriculars, no boy-sitting or school or work. Max, Sully and Jay, non-stop. And we would have a period of adjusting.
And then it happened. A few days into Australia, a perfect storm of a transcontinental flight, adjusting to a time change, being cooped up in a car for hours upon hours and well, 2 brothers bugging the shit out of each other pretty much nailed it.
As we were finishing up our drive through the Outback and heading into Adelaide, I was playing the part of the 70’s or 80’s road tripping parent. Pulling out all the stops. “If I have to pull over this car…”, “If I hear that one more time…”, ”Sully, stare out your window”, ”Max, stop bugging Sully”, “Neither one of you touch or look at each other. Ever. Again!!”. I almost succumbed to the classic, 'flailing arm swinging viciously through the back seat', hoping to connect with anything, its intended victims weaving and dodging like boxers. Anyone who grew up in my generation is familiar with it.
Finally all hell broke loose when, after paying for gas for the 67th time on this road trip and upon returning to the car, tears were streaming down Max’s eyes. He has been getting too good at the tear game and I wasn’t having any of it. Where, in Costa Rice, I would have been concerned I was now hip to his game and he was out of luck.
“Max are those tears?” I questioned sternly.
Looking up, and with Niagara Falls pouring out of his eyes, he choked, “No”.
And then...the clincher, “But, Daddy, Sully has had one more candy than me out of our pack!”
And that was it, the final straw. The breaking point. I exploded. Candy was launched out the front window, whether it was in their mouth at one point or not. Juice, fruit, magazines as well…anything I could get my hands on. Those who know me well, lovingly refer to this as, ‘Red Rage’. And I was in fine form. "That's it", I told them, "you have been warned enough, and I had given you one last chance. We are heading to the airport and going home!" Trip was over, I was not dealing with this type of behaviour for another 330 days. They could go to school back in Toronto and I would merrily see them out the door every morning, while I did whatever I wanted. As this 1-way discussion continued, the self-talk in my head was frustrating . The red-devil character was cheering me on and wanting me to give it to them. “Let them have it, make them feel your pain and frustration!” While the white angel character was imploring me to stop. "Kind…be kind…be patient...you’ve been teaching them about kindness all year. Yes, they're acting like spoiled, selfish brats, but they’re 7 & 11 and trying to manage this life experience as best they can. And they’re exhausted and discombobulated. And so are you." UGH! It was a mess.
Not wanting them to call my bluff, I headed for the Adelaide airport. Me, pointing out every airport direction sign along the way and reminding them of what could have been. Them, sobbing and bawling in the back seat. It was horrible. And lovely. They were convinced we were flying home. I finally had them.
In reality, I was just trying to return the rental car on time.
And also trying for a very teachable moment on this trip. We all have to be kind to each other, we can’t be selfish and we must get along. Lessons, always looking for the lessons.
As we pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car, we had a very open and honest discussion. It was calm, all voices were heard and many 7 & 11 year old promises were made (which, no doubt, will eventually be broken). But the point was made and understood by all of us. Kind. We must be kind and patient with each other or this is never going to work. And that’s the last thing any of us wants.
This is going to be difficult. More difficult than I thought, on many fronts. But I’ve got the two best co-pilots in the world and we’re back on the same page.
Rest of Australia…we be comin’.