Chacos column: Should you take a road trip with your parents?

Andrea Chacos
Enjoy the Ride

As a risk-taker, I agreed to go on a road trip to Mexico … with my parents. A better daughter would have said yes without reservation, but I’m the kind of child that weighs the pros and cons with this type of family togetherness. I accepted the challenge, and included my daughter, knowing we would strengthen our family’s bond and simultaneously fray the delicate tapestry we’ve stitched together over the years. I put my trust in the ride.

I insisted on driving but my father wouldn’t relinquish the keys. He would rather take a snooze behind the wheel on the interstate and put the family into cardiac arrest before giving up control of the car. He makes stubbornness look quaint.

I employed my mother’s skills at persuasion and asked, “You should probably use the restroom one more time before we get on the road,” to distract my father and claim the driver’s seat. I slid into their luxury sedan with its deeply tinted windows and leather seats and waited to receive my father’s displeasure. At times, my stubbornness is more sophisticated than my father’s.

My father pouted and puckered as he reluctantly sat down next to me. He heaved and huffed and adjusted his seat far enough back to make my mother’s knees touch her chest as she was sitting in the backseat behind him. She appeared not to notice and pretended to be reading a book, no doubt relieved I would have my father’s attention for the foreseeable future. My daughter, wise beyond her eighteen years, put on her headphones and looked out the window.

“Everyone have their seatbelts on?” I asked, hoping to sound sincere. I turned on the blinker and then pulled out of the driveway, slowly. Next, I came to a dramatic stop and waited a few extra seconds before pulling onto the main road. Despite my caution, I knew a lengthy driving lesson was fast approaching.

Observations on my motor skills carried on indefinitely and soon I had no choice but to pass a semi driving in the right lane. At this maneuver, my mother somehow fell into a deep sleep. She received her own speeding ticket recently and I doubt she wanted to actively listen to the same lecture for a second time. I noted to everyone in the vehicle that I was currently still driving well under the speed limit. My daughter, now acting unwisely, began audibly counting all the cars that passed me for the remainder of the trip.

Soon we arrived at the Mexican border.

I drove up to the gate unable to suppress a toothy grin and greeted the agents with an Americana, “Hello!” at least two octaves higher than my normal pitch. I was fueled by my father’s unfounded fear and anxiety coupled with my mother’s mania. He was spitting at me to drive slower, then to go faster, to turn left, and then to go right. My mother was leaning out the back window acting like a Chihuahua trapped in a fenced yard. My daughter slid down in her seat unable to conceal her embarrassment, a very wise daughter indeed.

Obviously, but not to my father, we were asked to get out of the car so it could be searched. Floor mats were lifted. Passports were handed over. The trunk of the car was picked apart. Beads of sweat formed at my father’s brow. Still wearing my oversized smile, I said something childish like, “This is awesome!” No one in my family acknowledged I belonged to them.”

My mother, never one to pass up an opportunity to speak one of her many languages, was talking rapidly in Spanish with the heavily armed agents. They were all laughing and then one of the men offered her some potato chips. I think they were flirting with one another.

Many minutes later we piled back into the car and said our long goodbyes to our new friends with machine guns. My father calmed his nerves by playing Beethoven too loudly for too long until I demanded something else. I wanted music we could all easily sing along to, but in the end, we drove south through the Sonoran Desert in silence.

We arrived at our destination in time for the sunset. I was fatigued and frustrated. My mother and daughter were holding hands deep in conversation, looking happy. They walked up to my dad and gave him a hug.

I have much to learn from my daughter and mother. After I handed the keys over to my father and vowed never to drive with him again, I finally softened and gave him a big hug, too. Our smiles, the genuine kind, were the ones we all traveled home with a few days later. 

Andrea Chacos can be reached at

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