(Cue the sounds of all parents groaning together)
An extended family car trip. For pretty much every parent I talk to lately, this scenario ranks up there with root canals and proctology exams. It may be an occasional necessary evil, but something to be avoided whenver possible.
Honestly, I'm one of them. But for good reason, I think. There's a bad gene somewhere in my oldest son, and when he was an infant he HATED riding in the car. He was colicky, fussy and quite the screamer. "Take him for a ride in the car!" People would tell us. "He'll fall right asleep." Umm, no. The sreaming only got louder. What a set of lungs a 4 month old can have! So car trips became a torture worse than anything the Chinese military could dream up. Even seven years later, we are still haunted by those memories and feel a sence of dread whenever packing up the car.
of smiling. Funny, we have no pictures of him in the
car. I must have been holding my ears instead of the
camera at those times.
My, how things have changed.
I was recently reminicing a little with a fellow Cub Scout dad. We found we both have fond memories of the family car trips of our youth. A clunky station wagon, silly made-up car games with siblings, maybe some song singing and coloring books. There were no seat belt laws for kids that we knew of, so generally we'd ride in the "way-back" where there were no seats at all, much less belts. My parents would put a couple sleeping bags back there for cushioning and we'd laze the day away, playing and napping and watching the "upside-down movie" by laying on our backs and looking up through the rear window. Those were the days...
I guess my rosy-colored memories don't account for the arguing over who-is-on-who's-side that I'm sure my sister and I did, or the frustration of my parents being lost and trying to figure out the map while we kids whined about being hungry or bored or needing to use the potty (or all three at once). The only unpleasant memory I have of a car trip was the extrordinarily hot summer we first went to Cape Hatteras. did I mention our station wagon did not have air conditioning and had faux leather seats? Sticky is a good word to describe that particular flashback. Ewwwwww.
Now, we have done some road trips already with the kids, but not without a certain amount of trepidation. Usually its been for a good unavoidable reason, like a wedding or important family visit. When planning our regular family vacations, I generally try to keep within a four-hour radius unless we have plans to simply fly there. That's been about as much as I can reasonably handle in keeping the whole family from decending into mayhem. This most recent trip of ours was to Massachusetts from our home in Virginia. Over 12 hours cocooned in the car, the longest we have ever yet attempted. And to make it worse, we only stayed in MA one full day, then it was back on the road for a 12 hour drive home. Oh, and I should mention my mother-in-law was in the car too. Talk about crowded. Kill. Me. NOW.
But to my surprise, the trip really wasn't that bad. In fact, my biggest complaints would be the senceless routes our TomTom took us and the ache in my back after all that time without good lumbar support. Those dumb (read the sarcasm here people) seatbelt laws that keep my kids forceably chained to one place finally didn't seem to affect our two boys much. At ages 7 and ALMOST 4, there is something better than license plate scavenger hunts and upside-down movies to keep the kids occupied. This may be the only time I'll say it, so mark these words: Thank you, Nintendo, for inventing the DSi.
Sorry Mom & Dad, but you were better parents than I. Yes, I resort to plugging in the electronics to enjoy the ride in peace, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Between their DS games and Leapster games and the portable DVD player we (finally) got for Christmas a couple years ago, there was not one instance of "I'm booooored" to be heard. In fact, they didn't even touch the coloring and activity books I brought as backup. Now don't get in a huff, they did not play video games for 12 hours straight, there were breaks. But my sanity was on the line and on *some* occasions, being plugged in can be a real blessing.
Pretty river view from the car window, maybe in Pennsylvania?
So with a successful, lengthy, whirlwind all-American road trip under our belts, I think I'm going to expand our family vacation radius by a few hours. Who knows what kind of fun adventures we'll be having next year as we venture farther away from home near Richmond, VA? Just as long as there's some electronics in the back seat, I think we could even tackle a 14 hour drive to Disney World! Well, maybe. But this time I'll bring a back pillow and a DS of my own.