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Once the door closes and we start to move,
the healing can begin

By Clay Nichols

For a kid suffering a setback, the rear seat of the family vehicle is like a psychologist’s couch, a decompression chamber, a cozy overstuffed chair and a Bat Cave all rolled into one. When kids are upset, hurt, sad or disappointed, the process of helping them feel better is often one that starts in the back of the family Equinox.

It’s a recognizable dynamic: Once the door closes and the car starts to move, the healing can begin. What is it about the car trip that helps kids cope? What’s the source of back-seat solace?

As parents, we can only guess. Maybe it’s the movement away from the source of the upset, or something calming about being in motion; enclosed within a solid, substantial chassis; sitting autonomously in the presence of a trusted adult—but not one immediately in their face. Sometimes the distance the rearview mirror gives us is just enough to get the words flowing.

I can think of countless drives with my own three kids that were more counseling sessions than commutes. A recent trip with my youngest son comes to mind. He’s soccer-crazy just like his older siblings, despite being only 8. He had to watch Team USA with a pillow over his head, so he could hide his eyes at tense moments. He’s rarely lacking a ball at his feet, even indoors. Which is a problem.

At the conclusion of the fall tryout for his competitive soccer league (a whole blog topic in itself), the coaches sorted the boys—with their spindly legs and socks up past their knobby knees—into teams. Even from my folding chair far across the field, I could see the realization come over my son. His shoulders slumped. He hadn’t made the “top” team.

The boys finished with a bit of scrimmage, and my kid played gamely, made it all the way to my sideline before the disappointment got the better of him and tears started to flow.

When he sat down in the back, it was like he was trying to sink into the seat. It was silent when I shifted into gear. By the second stoplight, a bit of subdued conversation had started. By the fourth, he was talking a little about the possibilities the “lower” team might offer. Maybe he could be the best player? The star!

The Equinox almost seemed to guide itself, knowing where we needed to go for part two of our “bad day” ritual: Finley’s. Our local barbershop.

Finley’s is a guys’ place. You can tell from the dark paneling inside, the sepia photos on the walls and the sports on the flat screens. And while the hair tonics may smell musky, this place is, in reality, pure new school. It’s a man spa, truth be told. Just don’t tell my son that.

Despite the fact that we have wildly different hair styles—he likes his buzz cut with clipper #2 whereas I prefer the #1.5—we both appreciate the pampering (yet manly) details, like the cold drink served to your chair and the shoulder massage. I glimpse him sitting up a little taller in the barber’s chair, and I hear him chatting about soccer. I can tell he feels like a big kid, the kind that can deal with a setback and soldier on.

Back in the car on the way home, we settle into silence—this time a comfortable, well-groomed one—and I reflect on how much my Equinox is like a rolling family counseling office. For all the conversations, big and small, I make a promise to myself that this office will always be open.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Clay Nichols is co-founder and editor of DadLabs.com. He can often be found in a high-quality camp chair cheering his face off for his kids: Wilson (13), Riley (10) and Cooper (8).


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