When your kids’ jam is not your jam

Our girl has been singing Dynamite all day. When she is not singing that Taio Cruz song using all the wrong lyrics except for a strong repetition of Dynamite/AY-O/Let Go, she is humming it. Or whistling it. There is only one person who enjoys whistling and it is the person whistling.

Everyone else is:

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Pow-pow with that Dynamite. It was really proud-making, hauling my kids en route to Vacation Bible School this morning where they would spend the morning with throngs of children named Josiah and Jedediah and Jeremiah, all rocking their VBS camp shirts, eating little campfire-themed snacks and doing mini-campsite lantern crafts, singing around the proverbial campfire at the top of their lungs, “God’s love is like an ocean!”, while, in preparation, my kids were belting out:

Death Disco at the Arches, Glasgow // October 2011

We gon’ rock this club,
We gon’ go all night,
We gon’ light it up,
Like it’s dynamite!

I think it set just the right tone.

By dinner, Baby Girl was still doing her best rendering of Dynamite and, oddly, I was experiencing a similar set of explosives igniting in my frontal lobe. I usually have no problem in asking my children to cease doing the annoying thing, but the girl was just beyond. She didn’t even realize she was singing it on loop, muttering unconsciously. Finally, as I stared across the table, I was trying to piece together a diversion from her club-thumping rhythms, when Little Man had just the right words.

He said, “Sis, do you have another jam?”

I wanted to smother-hug him and cover him with thousands of kisses. How sweet and polite is he? And also, how hip, to just ask little miss pop songstress if she had another track in her rotation.

Then, I realized. He was wondering if she literally had another jam.

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On being a one car family

We are a family of four with one car.

Before I go further, I want to be clear: this is not a thing. This is not a slow cooking movement. This is not the capsule wardrobe gimmick. You will likely not find a One Car Family Ideas board on Pinterest.

Six people, including Captain Edward Robert Sterling, in a car

This is also not a ponzi scheme or some other elitist scam for the 1%. This is written with full awareness that to own even ONE car is a privilege not enjoyed by a great majority of the world’s population, nevermind an ability to fuel one’s car on a regular basis.

This is, however, something of a lifestyle choice in an overprivileged overconsumptive sovereign nation and one I would choose over and over again. Do you like how I just cleared my throat for three straight paragraphs?

I’ve been asked by several people about being a one-car family, which appears to be something of a distinction in the carpool lanes in which I idle. I’ve thought quite a bit about this and what this says about me: that people would assume this would pose difficulty for us. Fair enough, I say. Because both adults in our family work outside the home in a geography where public transportation is not accessible/reliable for our purposes. Because we send our kids to a school that is not serviced by big yellow schoolbuses. Because we live in an age where 3-car garages are becoming standard in newly constructed homes.

one car family

So, I’ll claim it as a thing–our thing. We are a one-car family. We have only ever been a one-car family. I brought no car to the relationship. My hubby inherited a green Honda CRV from his parents when we married, but she has since died (RIP Green Bus) and now we drive what I am told is the official car of the New England lesbian: a Subaru Outback. And we love her.

I’ll also fully disclose that my hubby and I also own a mo-ped which he is crazy kind enough to drive much of the year to work and back.

There are many obvious perks to being a one-car fam. We pay less in auto insurance than if we owned, operated more vehicles. We only ever have to gas up one vehicle (the mo-ped uses less than $3/week in gas). When we lived in the city, I took the train everywhere, even when I had a double stroller for which I apologize to all who had to make room for me and my Hummer on the T. Now that we don’t live near public trans, we work hard to economize our trips instead of just going out whenever we feel like it.

There are some less obvious perks, though, and these are the ones I value most. After speaking with another family who enjoys being a one-car fam, we agreed that there is a heightened communication system that is necessary with owning one car. Simply put: you have to share more. You have to share where you’re going, what time you’ll be home. I’m sure folks with multiple vehicles do this, but, in the case when my hubby drives the mo-ped to work, I have to stay mindful of the weather patterns. If it sleets, rains, or heaven forbid snows, I know we’ll be packing up the kids in their jammies and schlepping downtown in the car to pick up Daddy. I love this about being a one-car family. We spend a lot of time catching up in the car. We work together as a family to keep it clean, inside and out.

Because of Loverpants’ and my disparate schedules, we don’t often share meals. Instead, we share the wide open road, sharing pieces of our day as we both gaze in the same direction, with our little backseat drivers chiming in and driving us absolutely nuts. And I would not have it any other way.

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On siblings, neck strangles, and advantages

“That was nice, Baby Girl,” I said after I saw her putting her brother into an affectionate neck strangle.

“I gave [Little Man] a hug and told him he did a good job,” she said.

It wasn’t that she knew he did a good job; she spent the entirety of the T-ball game sifting through the nearby stream for minnows.

It wasn’t that this was our routine after games: hugs and attaboys.

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I think it was that she knew he needed it. Siblings can sense these unspoken needs in a way that is hard to qualify or quantify but which seems as true and clear as a car emerging from the car wash. Perhaps that is what siblings are: people who have come through the same wash cycle, people who’ve been scrubbed by the same soap, buffed by the same brushes, people who entered and exited from the same places. And sometimes they’re not even biological.

My friend Haddy says she loves “to see siblings becoming.” I think this is perfectly put. After just a week at home with my kids on summer vacation, I love to see them becoming so much more than the girl and boy who were knit together in the same pouch. Their identities as singular punks are evolving just as surely as the identity they share as a sibling set: they are whole people and they are part of a whole greater than themselves. They share a horizontal relationship that will be recognized with confirmations, like, “Ah, of course, you are his sister,” and, at times, with incredulity “Oh! He’s your brother?!”  that I’m sure will follow them well into their adulthood.

I am grateful to have witnessed their early moments of gelling and the inevitable moments where they beat the tar out of one another. I am overcome sometimes how two people who didn’t get to choose one another for five years continue to choose one another: as playmates, as best frenemies.  I think about the disadvantages they have, living so many hundreds of miles removed from any family. How they don’t know many of their grands and aunties and uncles and cousins in anything more than monochrome, in one dimension.

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But then I think about the great, immeasurable advantage of just having a sibling with whom to suffer these really weird parents. Even if they have nothing in common, have disparate life goals, have no abiding interest in pursuing a meaningful relationship with one another–siblings have the goods on one another. They understand how each other came to be, far better than their parents could ever fathom. They will know the ticking of each other’s hearts, not just the steady rhythmic beats but the wild, erratic hiccups and dips and the soul-thirst for a hug after a T-ball game, where upon a little brother, aka “Little Bother” asked the snack provider for an extra juicebox. “For my sister.”

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