April 13, 2017
Rainbow soap suds streamed down the Toyota Sienna’s windows as my son and daughter squealed with delight. We were in the car wash. It was out of necessity. There was a stretch of I-5 where I thought I heard rain under a cloudless sky. I’m pretty sure the pitter pitter pat was bug bodies colliding with my windshield. The three of us sat transfixed as the soap and spray washed it clean.
The car wash is one of the most underrated family destinations. It doesn’t cost too much, lasts longer than most Disneyland rides, inspires a sense of awe, conserves a significant amount of water and time, and actually cleans your car.
This car wash did not disappoint.
“Our car is the funniest of them all!”
“It’s a thunderstorm!”
“I almost tooted.”
There was lots and lots of laughter. They were locked in on the sights and sounds.
After the car wash, we were happy and we knew it. But instead of clapping our hands or stomping our feet, we played some improv games.
Last spring, my in-laws came over and I drove my daughter and niece back from a zoo trip. We played a game where each of us thought of one word and then we made up a song. It was so much fun. I can still mention the words “Cat Dog Company” and bring a smile to my daughter’s face.
I was a little unsure of how Elliot would react to this game, but he participated and thought it was really hilarious. Alice did a nice job of adding in some of her own lyrics and explanations. We played at least three rounds, but I can only remember “Moon Puzzle Truck” and “Doughnut Tree Fox.” We referenced songs and other stories. We tried to establish themes. It was a moment of pure joy.
As we approached home, Mr. E. started to get a little cranky and sensitive. So I busted out the ice cream sundae analogy. This analogy is a somewhat manipulative idea that somehow resonates with the logic centers of my children’s brains. I started this with Alice years ago, and she was very helpful in explaining it to Elliot.
The basic idea is that all of the good things of the day are like the sundae ingredients. Bananas might be a cheerful wake-up. Ice cream might be keeping one’s pull-up dry. Whipped cream might be a positive experience at the pet store.
But Mr. E. was ready to top off his sundae with tears and anger. That’s when I told him about all the good parts of the day. Then I explained to him that ending our awesome trip with arguments would be like putting a worm on top of our delicious sundae. This seemed to make sense to his 3.75-year-old brain. He stopped instigating a fight with his sister.
We sang more Moana songs as we headed up the mountain. When we pulled into our carport, everyone was happy. Five potty stops and over nine hours of bonding gave all of us increased confidence as travelers. If I were a Scientologist, I bet I would have leveled up.
We emerged from the trip with many a happy memory. The successful adventure had given us a certain shine, like a car being bathed in rainbow foam.