Sunday, August 15, 2010

Roadtrip with Children...Again

I'm lucky enough to be an educator and have a similar schedule as my kids during the summer. And living thousands of miles away from grandparents, people are willing to chip in a little for us to visit for a good amount of time during the summer. That's why this summer we packed up our three kids, two dogs, and one cat for an epic road trip.

We travel on the cheap. Not that it can ever get inexpensive. But bringing along dogs and cats saves a fortune on boarding costs. It also makes the drive that much more difficult. Making room for animals means shoving luggage on the roof and finding hotels that will take the whole brood without charging an arm and leg. Bidding on hotel rooms from free wi-fi hotspots can be be stressful as well as frustrating. And stopping to go to the bathroom for one person or animal or another every half hour can end up adding extra hotel stays (in the past we've saved money by camping. This time, we saved room in the car by not).

Despite the logistics of dragging everyone across 20 states, it was a pure joy. We got used to our routine on the road, stopping at crappy roadside attractions or majestic national parks. We got used to eating terrible food or great food that's terrible for you. And now, frankly, it's hard getting used to staying in one place for more than one night.

In many places where we'd stop, people would inquire about why we were on the road, where we were going, and how long we'd been gone. These are common enough questions, and my answers often elicited the common response: "You're braver than I am."

We've talked about this before, a couple years ago, how strange it is when someone thinks that what I'm doing is brave. It's not always easy traveling for so long with so many people and animals in one car, but it's always fun. It's never brave (barring dangerous situations which we luckily avoided).

It's a treat, is what it is! I'm a lucky person who has achieved his dream of being an educator with enough time off to be with his family for a significant part of the year.

But you know what really bothers me? The constant suggestion that we should get a DVD player for our kids in the car.

Really? We drove 8,500 miles and you think it's a good idea to have your kids plugged into a TV for that long? There was a magazine article that my wife read to me during the trip, where a woman talked about driving 3 hours with her two kids, saying that of course she had a DVD player because she's "not a masochist." You have to be a masochist to ride in a car with your kids for three hours? Dude. Step the hell up.

I wouldn't be able to live with myself if my kids had driven across the deserts of the southwest and remembered nothing but Dora the Explorer. I wouldn't be able to stand it if my kids had driven through Yosemite and Yellowstone and only remembered what happened on Shrek.

In a car, kids fight, kids bicker, kids complain, sure, but they also have fun. They also increase their worldview. My five year old daughter has seen 40 states--more than I had seen until I was 25! And she may not be learning as much as I am about it all, but she sure is hell isn't watching Dora. And the fighting, the bickering, and the complaining, well that's part of being a kid, too, and finding ways to navigate your way through it and still have a good trip is the most valuable lesson of all.

We, once again, kept our "good trip" tradition alive. If you've not been reading for two years, I'll tell you what it is. Whenever your grumpy, mad, irritated, or sad, you can always start over and decide to have a good time by just lifting your hand, making the "Good Trip" sign (thumb, pointer, and pinky extended, other fingers folded down) and exclaiming "Good Trip!" It works very well when it works and falls flat when it doesn't. But it keeps us reminded that being in a good mood and having a good time is as much a decision as it is anything else.

I'm thrilled to have had the chance to take this trip with my kids. And though I had to continue my school work throughout much of it and I had to attend a rather large conference in the middle of it, it was the time of my life; nothing brave about it.


Krysten @ Glors Galore said...

"like" lol. we just did a small camping trip with our 3 yr old and 11 month old and there is not (and never will be, if i have a say about it) dvd players in the van. growing up i didn't have one. i had crossword puzzles and books and a window seat and a pillow, driving hours and hours. kids today are so overstimulated and "plugged in" it's nuts. good for you! i didn't miss my computer or tv or anything for those 4 days. it was nature and togetherness and bliss.

Eroteme said...

A point well made! Here in India, kids no longer want to travel by road or rail. They have to get there quick though this differs across economic strata. Even when they aren't traveling they need computer/video games and the like. But nearly always, I think the problem is with the lack of creativity or clarity in the parents. Your children are fortunate...

Sol Smith said...

I can't tell you how awesome it is to have a commenter comment from India! I feel so privileged to be read so far away (or at all).

As always, folks, thanks for reading!