When my oldest was 2 years old we used to get in the car – my wife, daughter, and myself- and we would drive. No real destiny other than a bit of sanity. My wife at the time was pregnant with our second child and we were more than ready for her to get that baby out of her. In order to calm down a bit we’d take our 2-year old, load her up in our 1994 Nissan Maxima, and hit the road for the Kosciusko County royal tour. Country roads, local lakes, parks, thru town, and long passages on various highways was a means of setting the timer back to zero. As good a toddler as our Claire was, she was indeed a 2-year old. Only so many games of Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Baby Einstein videos, and daddy’s old Star Wars action figures would suffice. Claire wasn’t much of a napper, either.
The car ride was a moment of zen for all of us.
During these rides I might occasionally get to slip in some music that I liked, but for the most part it was various children’s song collections. But as a bit of compromise we had a few collections that were artists covering kid’s songs. One of those collections was called For The Kids. I think out of all of the CDs we had for Claire this was my favorite. It had Sarah McLachlan covering “The Rainbow Connection”, Cake covering “Mahna Mahna”, Barenaked Ladies’ covering “La La La La Lemon”, and even Tom Waits singing “Bend Down The Branches”.
As far as compromises go, this was a pretty decent one.
But the song that still stands out to me is the Sesame Street song “Sing”. Not because of the artist that covered it(Ivy), or the connection that I had with it when I was a little kid, but because it was the one song on that whole CD that my oldest would sing along to in the backseat as we put miles on that Maxima. Just as the song instructs, “Sing, Sing a song, Make it simple,To last your whole life long, Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, For anyone else to hear, Sing,
Sing a song” Claire would sit in her car seat and sing this ancient song as if her life depended on it. Not a care in the world. It was shower singing. You know, the kind of singing one does when for that bit of time there’s not a care in the world. She wouldn’t get all the words right, but that didn’t matter. I mean, she was 2. What does one expect from a 2-year old? But in those little moments in the car, with her tangled head of red hair and light up slip-on shoes, Claire had zero cares in the world. And in turn neither did we.
Yesterday Claire turned 18 years old. In less than two weeks she will be graduating high school and in August she’ll be moving 3 hours away to attend a very prestigious liberal arts college. Her mom and I are proud of her beyond words. And we’re proud of ourselves for raising such a kind, thoughtful, and smart young woman. I’m honestly not sure how we did it. I mean, we went from two desperate adults in their late 20s driving around aimlessly on a Saturday night attempting to find some semblance of normalcy with a 2-year old in the backseat singing her heart out, to sending invitations out to that 2-year old’s high school graduation in the blink of any eye.
We somehow went from 0 to 18 just like that(insert finger snap.) Scrapes and bruises along the way, for sure. Missteps and mistakes strewn throughout, yes. But despite some bush league moments, we got that little red head with the big smile that loved to sing in the car(as well as occasionally along with the munchkins in The Wizard Of Oz) to a point in her life where the skies the limit, the world is her oyster, and the bull is firmly grabbed by the horns.
You do the best you can, you try to make the right choices for your kids, and you just pray to Jebus that they remember all those happy times over the stupid ones. Like the time you took them to the zoo, or the first time you saw a movie at the cinema, or that trip you took to the shores of Lake Michigan; as opposed to you drinking too much and acting like a dolt, or getting stupidly mad over something ridiculous, or not making good on that promise to go to Disney World(sorry.)
18 years in and I’m still the doting proud dad that I was at 26-years old. And with the gift of hindsight I’d say I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite by insecurities and imperfections as a parent Claire still turned out quite alright. Even when she’s out of the house, out of college, and with a life of her own we’ll always still have those car rides. And maybe when she’s needing a break from her own daily grind, I’ll gift her a CD that might help.