I tried to remember my sister's advice as I was stopped at a red light on El Camino and Rengstorff. Josie and Owen were screaming in the back seat, arguing over which park they preferred.
It was just a few months ago that Josie and Owen made up cute names for each park in Mountain View. Now, they not only knew the parks’ proper names, but they each had their favorite.
"Cuesta Park!" Josie yelled.
"Cooper Park!" Owen yelled, one octave louder.
"No...Cuesta!” Josie screamed.
"No...Cooper!” Owen screamed back. Before Josie could get in one more Cuesta, Owen leaned towards her car seat and screamed the longest and loudest scream I've ever heard.
Josie burst into tears. Owen sat back in his car seat since clearly the argument was over.
"Enough," I said in as calm a voice as I could manage. "Here's the plan. We're going to drive by Cuesta Park first because it's closest. We will let Owen take a look and see if he's interested." My back seat planners nodded in agreement.
A few minutes later, I pulled the car over near the gazebo at Cuesta Park.
"See that fun park," Josie said. "Want to go there? It's so cool, Owen."
"No. Cooper Park," Owen said, with a hint of hesitation. Josie capitalized. "Look at the swings and all the slides. You will love it!"
"Is that Cooper Park?" Owen asked even more hesitantly.
"Yes. That's Cooper Park." Josie responded while she nodded her head enthusiastically.
"Josie!" I said in complete shock.
"What?" Josie said with a shrug of her shoulders. "He can call it Cooper Park if he wants."
Josie and Owen simultaneously undid their seat belts and jumped out of their car seats. I got out, opened their doors and watched in disbelief as the two ran happily towards Cuesta Park.
I sat on a park bench while Josie and Owen played together in the sand. I couldn't help but wonder whether I should worry that Owen had screamed so loudly at his sister or that Josie had lied so well to manipulate the situation.
I thought again of my sister and her 3 teenagers. Before I know it, Owen will be screaming about who gets the car on Friday night and Josie will be lying about her plans on Saturday night.
I pushed my worries aside and spent the afternoon playing with my kids. I decided to save my worries and my energy for the years ahead. Clearly, I was going to need them.