'We Don't Let Dorothy Crack The Eggs Anymore" Chapter 19: Quarrels & Travels

"You know that word I'm not supposed to say any more? Well, she's one of those!"

So spake my eldest, a sassy 7, in order to have the last word in a pint-size version of the Punic Wars.

Oh, give me a home where the children can roam, but deliver me from a car ride anywhere with my "competing" children -- the boy, 7, and three girls, 6, 5 and almost 4. That's a good word: competing. Euphemistic for getting-into-each-other's-hair.

I know why they say blood is thicker than water. You can expect a blood bath in the 6/10 mile between home and supermarket.

You think Carthage was in ruins? You should view the results of these sibling quarrels which pit my progeny against each other. Arthur Goldberg would be hard-pressed to keep these home fires from flaring up and burning.

If you have the courage of those pioneers who braved the western frontiers in Conestoga wagons, take on a weekend jaunt 90 miles away. You will have thrills, chills, pills, trills, spills.

The children were probably right. I do need a Catholic chariot (station wagon) for my trembly assembly. St. Vitus dance would seem like a slow motion undulation compared to the writhings among my wranglers in a two-door compact job.

Not even an ultimatum from The President would bow them into submission at the first assault, a universal problem. Namely. "It's my turn to sit by the window and he's pushing me and she won't move ove-r-RRR!"

It takes 15 minutes to discover whose turn it is to sit by the window and explain the inner workings of a fair-and-square system. And forget it, Charlie, that won't satisfy 'em. Smack the one closest to you, say "Shaddup!"and who wants to stay home and you've cleared the first hurdle, getting way from your driveway.

The Expressway should be renamed Duress-way for all the dullness of scenery only stirs their juices more. And who's gonna pay at the tollgate gives me another quarrelsome ring to the togetherness special.

Having read somewhere in a child-raising (or was it adult guidance?) manual that singing uses up some of that pent-up energy and gets their minds off the latest oil-and-water salvo. I urged them into a community sing.

"I am Henery the 8th I am" resounded in their inimitable off key rendition.

The littlest sobbed "Stop!!" They had started before her voice grabbed a pitch. That was show down. Next: The Game. Who will see the Jupiter Lighthouse first? It is amazing and near-phenomenal that all four can simultaneously see this landmark two miles away, despite the dense forest obliterating it from normal vision. For the sake of winning, however, ANYTHING is possible.

By this time the driver they call Mommy, whose role in life has become referee, is beginning to mentally richochet. "Quit yelling!" shouts one of the more astute siblings. "You're making Mommy nervous!"

You know how it feels. Talk about coffee nerves. You think if someone drops a shoestring you'll push the panic button.

I have a friend who says when that time comes, he stops the car, gets out and goes around to the other side. He opens the door and says to his kids, "Awright, get out! You can walk home." Claims it works.

Only. An expressway is no place for this pull-over jazz. Get hit by one of those trucks and they mail you home.

"We're running north. We're almost there!" you keep telling them, actually trying to convince yourself you'll survive because you come from good stock and just wait 'till you arrive and you'll eat tranquilizers like candy and...."Hey kiddies...who would like a nice ice cream when we get to Juno Beach? Hmmmm? " The deafening response starts a spontaneous shimmy in the car. (It needs a ring job. Mother hen needs a jolt.)

Oh, where is the torpid tot of yesteryear, the one who obeys, never sasses back, does his homework, helps his poor ole mother? In this flock he is not.

My chapter on Ho for the open road is closed.