I’m the youngest of five in my family. The girls are older and us three boys are each about 14 months apart. Bim, bam, boom. And that’s the way it was much of the time with us. Not fist fights, but frequent squabbles and tussles. Especially in the car. If Dad took a sharp corner in our VW Squareback, we’d scrunch whoever was on the side the car leaned. Then shift to the other side with the next turn. Oh what fun! Of course, as the runt I’d get picked on and Dad would hear my hollers and peer in the rearview mirror and scold my older brothers for bothering me. I liked that bit. A lot. So much so that I would put myself in situations to get a pounding so they’d get told off. “And don’t do it again, humph!” I’d say, triumphantly. My brothers would protest but my Dad would shush them up and continue driving through the chaotic traffic of Los Angeles, where we lived. Then came my mishap. I pulled my trick to get my brothers in trouble by kicking one and hitting the other. And Dad saw the whole thing in the rearview mirror. Busted!
My Dad has told the story of my downfall countless times, branding me as the aggravator. It’s no doubt that my brothers are still smiling that at long last justice was served for the pipsqueak.
My three children, seven, five and two, are learning the fine art of how to travel in the backseat together on the roads of Argentina. They have car seats, two in boosters and the youngest in a step-up from the baby version in spite of her protests. So the scrunching on turns isn’t possible. And they’re not into hitting each other.
But things can happen.
Right now the youngest is gagging. She doesn’t like strong smells, clean or foul. She’ll hold her nose and try not to breath if it stinks or the odor of cleaning fluids is overbearing for her. That’s the way it is.
So I ask my son what’s up with his sister.
He looks at her holding her nose and gagging and reports back that she says something stinks.
“What stinks?” I ask.
“Me no,” my son says rapidly.
The littlest one releases her firm grip on her nose to let out her response. “Yeah, you stink!” she says to her brother.
“No!” he retorts
“Yeah you do.”
“No I don’t.”
It goes on and I think that intervention would be appropriate at this point. But I know what it’s like to be the youngest, and my two-year-old has yet to learn the fine art of aggravation and enjoy its pleasures. And this time, really, she’s the victim. And I mean really the victim. It really does stink. So I turn up the radio and roll down the window.