The 12 year-old slumps in the passenger seat. "Why do we have to spend the night?" he hrumphs and crosses his arms.
"You're spending the night at your grandparents' house, not in a dungeon," I remind him.
"May as well be a dungeon," he grumbles.
I empathise. I once threatened to run away if my parents left me with the babysitter. I demanded that they take me on their date or lose me forever.
My mother knew I wouldn't get any farther than the end of the driveway, my little red wagon stocked with slices of bread and a jar of water, where I would sit and pout until it got boring, then drag my wagon back to the porch. Unmoved by my threat, she said, "Clean your room before you go."
Fury -- at being a child and not taken seriously, with no control over my destiny -- palpitated an unsettling rhythm in my heart. I stomped off to my room. After a good cleaning and a long cry, I forgave my parents and resolved to stick it out at home.
Other disgruntled voices speak up from the backseat. "Yeah, why can't we stay home and take care of ourselves?"
"What do y'all think your grandparents will do to you?" I argue.
"Make us work," replies my daughter. "Make us clean the house." Experience prevents me from retorting.
In my parents' driveway, my farewell begins, as always, with reminders about manners. Met with cloudy faces, I resort to sarcastically quipping, "Don't make a mess in the dungeon and remember your ma'ams, sirs, pleases, and thank-yous with the torture chamber attendants."
The next morning, they all tumble into the car spouting off the weather report, adeptly reciting the 10-day forecast like seasoned weathermen. Someone brags that my mama served dessert after dinner. She even gave them a choice between Jello or cake ... or both ... with whipped cream on top, the kind out of the grocery store cold-case.
I never got dessert or fake whipped topping when I was a kid.
My daughter excitedly announces she got to take a bath ... while watching TV. And she got to pick the channel!
When I was a kid, we had one television and two static-plagued channels, which we peered at while one of us children, under my father's armchair direction, adjusted the foil-enhanced rabbit-ears.
For breakfast, reports my youngest son, they drank hot chocolate ... with Kool-whip. When I was a kid, I got lectures on the Iowa breakfast study.
Mother initially balked on the whipped cream, saying it was a tub of chemicals. But when they convinced her they didn't care, she plopped a big scoop of goo in each child's cup. When I was a kid, my mother didn't care that I didn't care. I got the lecture and another glump of eggs and some over-sized, brown vitamins.
Things have changed at my parents' house since the last time I ran away. I may just load up my little red wagon and head back. My husband, however, says I must clean the bathrooms before I go.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Contact Lucy at email@example.com and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)