Our family car is a 10-year-old green Mazda Protégé. It’s nothing special. In fact, the only reason we bought it seven years ago was because Mel was pregnant with Tristan. So I suppose the kids do have some ownership of the car. We bought it for them. But time and time again it is apparent that they don’t give a damn about our car. Here are a few examples:
1. Before we go anywhere we make sure the kids use the restroom. However they fight doing this, passionately, and I think it’s because they don’t give a damn about my car. They don’t think that if they have an accident, it might stain the seats, and make it smell like a turd for the life of the car. Once, when Tristan was three, just after he was potty trained, I looked at him in the backseat. He was grunting. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Pooping.” Then he looked at me with a spiteful smile that seemed to say, I did that on purpose!
2. Sometimes my kids lick fruit snacks and then rub them into the seats. This makes me want to kill!
3. Let’s talk about fast food. Both Tristan and Norah love McDonald’s. Mostly because of the toy. I can’t always see what they are doing in the back seat. But what I can see is the aftermath of a trip to McDonald’s. It always looks like they ripped the stupid toy out of the box, dumped the fries and nuggets out into a pile, and then mashed them into the upholstery with their little shoes and little hands, laughing the whole time. Once I asked Tristan (my six-year-old) why he does this, and he said, “It’s not that nice of a car. I don’t know what the big deal is.” After that comment, it was a long time before he got McDonald’s again.
4. The kids didn’t get markers in the car for nearly six months after Norah scribbled on the door, and Tristan wrote, “Fart” on his car seat.
5. Tristan likes to shut the door by kicking it. When I asked him why, he said, “I’m practicing for soccer.” And when I told him that the car was not a soccer ball, he gave me a confused look, as though he didn’t know.
6. Both kids think it’s funny to kick the seats ahead of them to get our attention. And when I tell them to stop because it’s bad for the car, they both laugh, long and hard, like they don’t care, like they are some bully at a movie theater kicking the seat of some picked on high school nerd.
7. Our car has a mystery smell, the cause of which cannot be found or covered up. I blame my kids for this.
8. Mel once confronted me about picking my nose and wiping it under the seat. Both kids were present for the argument, and now I regularly find boogers in the back seat. This is probably my fault.
9. It doesn’t matter how often I clean the back seats of our car (every day or once a month) there will be a large black garbage sack worth of trash (food wrappers, toys, banana peels, and so on). One time I took Tristan and Norah outside, handed them each a bag, and made them pick up the mess. It was my assumption that they would hate the job so much that they would stop treating the car like a garbage can. Instead, Norah kept finding hidden treasures, “Look dad! My old McDonald’s toy!” And at one point Tristan let out a sinister laugh, rubbed his hands together, and said, “I’m a good mess maker!”
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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.