"Stop touching me!"
I pulled the car to the road's shoulder as my wife turned around in her seat to talk to our nine-year-old boys.
"If you don't stop fighting, we are going home. It's completely up to you."
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw both boys staring toward the floor. I put the car back into gear and nodded toward my wife.
As I rolled forward and merged into the traffic on I-35, my wife of 13 years reached over and patted my shoulder.
This was not a vacation.
My sister was sick and the doctors could not figure out exactly what was causing the seizures. After a battery of tests, the decision was made to perform some exploratory procedure to see what was going on inside her head.
I thought back on our childhood.
Our own road trips growing up were much like this one. Our childhood cooler in the trunk held fried chicken drumsticks, peanut butter and jelly, a loaf of plain white bread, a pitcher of lemonade – homemade fare. Today's cooler held bottled waters, juice boxes, pre-packaged snacks… I wondered why we didn't just take the time to pack a healthier lunch. But, we were in a hurry to get on the road. We were always in a hurry…
"Stop touching me! Stop touching me!"
Snapped from my reverie, I looked in the mirror to see Seth holding his finger just inches from Brian's nose. "I'm not touching you!"
Seth's eyes met mine in the rearview mirror and he lowered his hand away from his brother's face.
I recalled my mom telling me, "You're not a parent unless you have more than one kid, Jeremy. Until you have to sort out the problems and differences between children, it's not parenting. One kid is easy."
I didn't understand that – until I had two boys. Two boys clamoring for attention, both of them trying to figure out where they fit in the world. Sometimes I wondered if they would ever outgrow the constant bickering. Sometimes it seemed that they hated one another.
I turned up the radio when a John Denver song began to play. This drive from Dallas to Minneapolis would be fine if I could just find the right radio station. The sun had lowered in the sky. Nighttime driving was just around the corner. I cracked the window and enjoyed the coolness of the evening.
Lost in my thoughts again, I didn't realize that the back seat was quiet.
My wife tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to the back seat. Two boys with their heads leaning on their respective doors. Mouths agape, but no fighting. Sleep. Peace.
Nine year old boys.
War and peace.
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