Our family is about to embark on an epic road trip where we will explore as much of the western half of this country as can be done in two weeks.
“Now’s the time,” friends have told me. “Once they’re teenagers, it will be a much harder sell.”
The Grand Canyon!
Quality Time and free continental breakfasts for all!
It’s going to be great.
Except, you know how some horror movies will begin with, oh, say, a nice family packing for a summer vacation, and it all looks so fun but you KNOW it’s all about to get very scary?
I’m kind of flashing on that, y’all.
First of all, I’ve got two boys, each of whom get carsick on the elevator to their 5th floor orthodontist’s office. Because of this, a road trip feels just a tiny bit risky.
And of course, there’s the fact that they are eleven and thirteen, the age when kiddos really turn on the charm.
(You feel me, moms?)
Then there’s my husband and I.
We have been married fifteen years which he always points out, in Los Angeles, is “a pretty good run.”
Such a romantic.
And while Chris and I are all good with the daily routine, exploring the road less traveled (especially if it’s crammed with tourists in socks and sandals) with all it’s novelty, can sometimes bring out the worst in us.
You know, just a little.
One thing about C. is that he truly wants to make his family happy. (Side note: I am proud to say that, while very tempting, I have never used this to my advantage, as evidenced by the fact that we have neither a chicken coop, nor a manny.)
I also have a thing about making my family happy, albeit with slightly more of an edge than my husband. Oh yes, I want to make them happy and keep them happy, by god, or die trying!!
In that way (and a few others), we are all batshit crazy.
So a family road trip with us could look something like this:
Four hours into a seven hour drive, one child might whimper, “I don’t feel so good.”
I hand him a plastic Subway bag, to which he responds, “Don’t Mom, you’re making it worse!”
They ask how many more miles, and does the motel have a pool.
Four hundred ninety-seven and no, it does not.
T. asks for more room in the backseat, prompting C. to poke his older brother with a fruit roll-up, which inspires T. to fart, then blame the fart on C., forcing C. to retaliate with, what else?
More farting. (Did I mention he is eleven?)
I unroll the windows.
“Look over there!” My husband says then, pointing to an awesome rock formation which looks, you gotta kind of admit, a lot like the last awesome rock formation. “See that??”
Busy licking orange dust out of an empty Doritos bag from three states ago, the little darlings don’t respond to their father, which leads to a very slight tensing of his lower jaw, invisible to to the naked eye unless, of course, the naked eye is my super-human-bionic -mother-eye.
It is then that some very ancient neuron in my brain, buzzing from too many pecan logs and Snapples, fires, and I, for reasons I am not wholly conscious of, set about “lightening the mood” with a friendly game of License Plate Bingo. I crank the audio version One Hundred and One Native American Folk Tales (educational and fun!) and take another family selfie.
When both my boys were preschool age, I went to an amazing therapist. (If you read this blog then you know I’m no stranger to the couch.)
I went to her because I was feeling anxious during the long hours I spent alone with my son and newborn baby, and I couldn’t figure out why. Like many new moms, I thought that all I wanted was for my kids to be happy. (This was before Facebook and articles like this that, like a good freinemy, are both helpful and shaming. Now we know better—then, we were totally fucked up.)
No matter what I tried, C. would still have long crying jags in the middle of the night and T. flipped out when riding in his carseat. Everyone else always seemed to be enjoying themselves. What was wrong with us??
“It just feels like someone is always upset,” I said. “I don’t know what to do.”
“So,” she began, all casual-like, “What would a good day look like, for you and the boys?”
I tried to figure out what the right answer was. I knew I needed therapy, but I desperately wanted her to think I didn’t. “Well, I guess if everyone’s happy, then it’s been a good day.”
Nailed it, I thought.
A single mother with two grown kids of her own, she smiled and said, “You might need to rethink your definition of a good day.”
She told me that when you’ve got two kids under five, a day that ends with everyone in one piece might just be as good as it gets.
One kid crying in my arms with a fever while the other watches yet another episode of What Not To Wear in his bouncy seat? Good day.
Honey Bunches of Oats for dinner while wearing our pajamas. (From yesterday?) Good day.
Staying at the fancy Children’s Museum in Beverly Hills for thirty minutes before having to leave with two sobbing kids because C. pooped in his rain boots? Good Day.
My feeling ok had been dependent on their smiling faces and let me tell you, that shit can drive you nuts. Realizing that I do not operate the on/off switch for anyone’s happiness, and changing my whacked idea of what a good day looks like was, ironically, the key to happiness.
My own, anyway.
And it’s probably also the key to
a totally awesome road trip a super fun road trip
our road trip 🙂