When my oldest son Gavin was little, about 18 months old, he would scream whenever we went through the car wash. We lived in Minneapolis in the winter and because they salt their roads, we tried to wash the car regularly to keep the rust at bay.
My husband thought it would be a good idea to tell him that the car wash was a big monster –yeah, I know– and described all the car wash processes with monster flair, somehow thinking this would stop his screaming and peak his interest. I’m sure it was a great idea in his head. The car wash was now a nightmare for everyone, with Gavin screaming “MOMMU!” (his word for MONSTER) the whole time. Traumatized. I wonder how he feels about the car wash now….? I may have to give him a call. I do have to say that my husband felt pretty bad after the fact, admitting that he didn’t actually think that through very well.
After four more kids, we became a little more experienced in the subtleties of child-car wash survival.
Once, after a long road trip with the kids the car was covered with bugs and we decided to take a cruise through the car wash before they hardened into semi permanent adhesions on the front of the minivan. My youngest son was complaining of a tummy ache. Probably from the gas station snacks my kids always looked forward to and ate way too fast. We were almost home. A quick wash and we were 10 minutes away.
As soon as we entered the cave of spraying water and foam, my son groaned and heaved, throwing up all over the inside of the car. We were trapped. Everyone was screaming and our young children threw off the seat belts and plastered their faces against the windows, as if that would help them get out. There was nowhere to go. It was pandemonium.
Now this was a car wash that had attendants at the end wiping down the vehicle before exiting. Imagine them rubbing their towels in a circular motion on the front bumper as the car emerged, then swiping into view of the windows with children up against them screaming Help! and Get us out of here! I actually think we were screaming it too. They just stood there while my husband hit the gas, turned the corner and we busted out of the van shrieking. I think one of the other kids threw up.
The two of us flung sleeping bags out of the car–they happened to be ground zero of said incident–with any other side target.
Our kids got as far away from the vehicle as possible. I had to gingerly unstrap Nathan (the spewing toddler) from the car seat, take him outside and strip him down. We managed to get a few garbage bags from the car wash attendants, threw everything we could in them and with promises of multiple rewards, we piled them back in the van with the windows down and our heads hanging out–the back windows wouldn’t open all the way. Ten minutes seemed like an hour. Though Nathan felt better.
It’s always a chore, returning from a family trip, with laundry and baths, car clean up and settling back in. But this trip… (Can you see my eyes rolling…?)
Any time after that anyone complained of a tummy ache we all got PTSD! The kids would shout, PULL OVER! PULL OVER!
Poor Nathan will never live it down in our family stories. The tales we tell over and over again. The experiences that we recall when we’re together or something triggers the memory. We laugh and rib each other as only family can. Time changes our perspective and crazy experiences become funny and endearing.
Remember this in the midst of pandemonium in your family. These experiences may be your biggest, fondest memories years down the road.