Road Trip Rage

My three charming, delightful, whimsical children began their spring break with an unrelenting barrage of ridiculous arguments, incessant infighting and absurd complaints. The timing was perfect because we happened to spend last week at my parents so their behavior really made my mothering skills shine. I’m not sure what the root cause of all of this discontent was exactly because it began almost immediately after my mother and father individually gifted each child with presents, a seemingly celebratory event. But, then they argued over the presents. Which made them seem especially grateful and gracious and well-parented and all. It’s always extra cringey when your kids come off as unappreciative of gifts. Like, you are just absolutely failing at entry-level child-rearing.

There was a lot of bad behavior those first couple of days but the most egregious was when one of the three actually threw a temper tantrum because Bob was going to take them all to a playground. Again, A PLAYGROUND. TEARS WERE SHED over this plan. And, the playground was to be followed by a trip to Chick-fil-A which was all preceded by the presents. So, it was basically a children’s trifecta of fun. Which they ruined. Because… I don’t even know why. Kids make absolutely no sense.

They all got with the program after a significant number of threats issued through gritted teeth. (Bob is especially effective at this.) But, still, when I asked Henry to show me how much fun he was having as we WALKED ACROSS THE OHIO RIVER on a pedestrian bridge, this was all he could muster:

I think we've crested that point, at nine years of age, where everything I do and say around Henry is totally uncool.

I feel like I’ve crested that point with Henry, at age nine, where everything I do or say in public embarrasses him. This will absolutely not stop me from doing or saying things in public that will embarrass him.

Please to note the slouched shoulders of parental intolerance. Also, he is wearing his rec specs because his glasses snapped in half on day one – DAY ONE – of our trip. I’m wondering why we ever drove away from our house.

Despite their questionable behavior, we all rallied to travel to southeastern Kentucky towards the end of the week for a stay at Pine Mountain State Park. I’m kind of surprised my parents even wanted to follow through on this plan seeing as the first part of the week had been so enjoyable.

Anyway, the park sits close to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and the intersection of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. The views were amazing and Bob got my parents and myself to agree to take the three kids hiking on a somewhat longer trail by lying and telling us that the trail was “mostly flat.” It was not indeed, “mostly flat.” Actually, it was “none flat.” We had to take turns holding on to Millie’s hood lest she fall into the somewhat raging creek many feet below.

NOT FLAT.

NOT FLAT, BOB.

Millie was… not amused (I’M SENSING A THEME HERE):

Ah, come on, Millie. You're sitting on the side of a mountain!

Ah, come on, Millie. You’re sitting on the side of a mountain that’s totally not flat.

Yes, Charlie is holding a slingshot. Yes, it was purchased by Bob. Yes, that went over about as well as you are imagining. Charlie walked around the park telling everyone he was going to kill a mama bear with it and take her baby bear cub home to live with us. Not everyone knew how to react to that proposition.

Illicit slingshot purchase aside, it was all a lot of fun and when I asked Henry and Charlie to show me how much fun they were having, I got this:

SO MUCH FUN YOU GUYS. The answer is they are having so much fun.

SO MUCH FUN YOU GUYS.

On the way home, somewhere around hour number seven of driving on I-81 through Virginia, I was wondering if our constant striving to give our children new adventures, new sights, new sounds is at all worth it. I definitely THINK it is but this trip was work. All of the trips we will take this year will be work. At this stage, there is not a lot of vacation to our vacations.

But then, I caught this:

Checkers in the lodge.

Checkers in the lodge.

I filtered this through Instagram and wrote, “Worth all the effort it took to get here.” What I meant at the time was, that seeing my daughter and my dad together made the work of planning and executing the trip worth it. But, the longer I stare at that picture and at the two of them, the more the caption really means. Because it is all worth the effort. All of it. Of course it is. From beginning to end. Life and living and vacations and road trips and homework and crumbs on the floor and inside out socks and terrible behavior and hugs and kisses and sore UNO losers. It will always be worth the effort.

Sure, our spring break was a little messy this year and yes, I could sleep for the next four days straight but the whole escapade was memorable. I’ll never stop taking these kids places.

You should go to this place.

You should go here.

Also, on a side note, I know I’m supposed to want my kids to look out the window on long car drives, studying the landscape, seeing new things, experiencing a greater world than their everyday but honestly, this is so much easier:

Charlie is back there somewhere. Sequestered for his own safety and he is The Instigator in most situations.

Charlie is back there somewhere. Sequestered for his own safety as he is The Instigator in most vehicular situations.

Three kids, three sets of earbuds, three electronic devices with magic screens. The four hours spent driving through the great state of West Virginia barely even registered, what with all of the quiet. Sure, they missed majestic mountain peaks, stunning valley views and a dizzying array of abandoned shanty towns visible from the interstate but we’ll show them pictures in a book or something.

Packing Light

I’m in Kentucky with the kids for a week-long visit with my parents. We had to leave Bob behind this trip and since this was the first time I have made the drive to Louisville from our new house, I was worried it would be treacherous on my own with three young children. However, a strategic early departure, some well-timed movies on the Kindle and a couple of naps worked in our favor and we made the trek in nine hours.

I’ve kept a page in my planner for several years titled, “Packing Checklist.” Overwhelmed with the task of traveling with a young baby Henry, I can remember making a detailed list of everything I would need to shove into our Subaru to ensure we forgot nothing. Because when you’re a first time parent and it’s 1:30 in the morning and you’re trying to get a six-month-old to sleep in a pack and play in a Hampton Inn 500 miles from home, YOU BETTER HAVE ENOUGH PACIFIERS!

Every trip our family has taken since, I have run down that list prior to departure, checking items off as they get packed.

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And, every trip since, that list has shrunk a little bit as I erase items that Millie, our youngest, no longer needs.

It started when we were done with bottles for good. No more bottles, bottle liners, formula and burp rags. Soon, Millie outgrew baby food so we could shed all of the baby food jars, baby-specific snacks, special spoons, bibs and booster seat. Once two of our three children were fully potty-trained, the quantity of diapers packed decreased by 1,000 percent. (Incredibly, I can remember one trip where I packed about six different types of diapers between regular diapers, pull-ups, swim diapers and nighttime diapers all in various sizes.) Over time, we’ve stopped needing special baby shampoo or toddler toothpaste and Millie has made the bridge from infant medications to the standard children’s variety so all of the kid toiletries have decreased dramatically, too.

This trip, the pack and play got removed from the list. Millie sleeps in a regular bed now, just like a grown human and everything! She still has a favorite blanket and stuffed animal but I no longer need to remember the portable bed, the sheet for the portable bed, the blankets that provide a better cushion for the portable bed, and on and on.

It struck me, as I prepared for our journey to Kentucky this week, that the list now has a fraction of the number of items it used to have. I am amazed that I am only one potty-trained kid away from no longer needing a diaper bag when we go just about anywhere. I feel like I’ve been waiting for things to get easier forever and very slowly, one item at a time, everything has just gotten so much easier. This is kind of blowing my mind.

I look forward to the road trip we’ll take one day, not too far off in the future now, when I can throw three backpacks at my three kids and tell them to pack themselves. Can you even imagine?