Every Kid Should Have a Backseat Childhood

As I sit here writing this, Story and Riley are best friends, eating noodles in the common room and watching a show on Netflix, both sitting on the left side of the couch, knees overlapping. Maddie is lying down, and Ali is reading to her. It’s a pretty nice scene from this small table in the kitchenette. Peaceful.

It wasn’t at all like this earlier.

“Get out of my face!” Story shouts as I try to hear the directions Ali is giving me. We’re on vacation in St. Louis and have been together for five days straight.

Riley leans closer, so close but not yet touching.

“I said, Get. Out. Of. My. Face!” Story raises her voice even louder and begins to explain personal space to Riley through a growl.




Maddie is drinking water, oblivious to the showdown happening right next to her.

Riley raises her arm and dangles her hand over Story’s head, clearly breaking those personal space rules Story just explained.

I am this close to yelling, and then it happens. Ali laughs.

Ali has two children and is no stranger to sibling arguments coming from the backseat. With just Story, I rarely experience that type of headache. But with Ali’s laugh, I had to laugh too, and as I thought about it, I came to realize that backseat vacation disputes are oh so important.

I had them with my sisters, and I’m sure Ali had them with her sister. It is the same argument passed down through the generations, a common element of all family vacations. And the fact that Story is able to fight with such venom in the backseat of the car and can then be the best of friends with Riley and Maddie not much later means that they are — or at least feel like — sisters.

Backseat St. Louis

Without such encounters, Story would grow up not knowing how to properly argue a point and realize that sometimes emotions are stronger than logic. She wouldn’t know that hating someone one minute can lead to loving her the next. She wouldn’t have those arguments to recount later in life when they can be viewed fondly. She wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to participate in this rite of passage.

And yes, I did finally lose my cool and yell, threatening the girls with no ice cream. At least I didn’t threaten to turn the car around.