Last night, we got home from a 2,278-mile road trip with the kids. We visited grandparents, attended a family reunion, and enjoyed Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon National Parks. Anyone who has road tripped with kids knows that this long of a trip leads to a lot of interesting experiences.
To start off the trip, we left later in the day than planned. Lesson learned: Don't let your kids change rooms just days before leaving on vacation. We finished the little details of the room change the night before, so that day we still had to clean the house and pack. The week had been so exhausting that, honestly, we were actually looking forward to the 10-hour drive and getting to relax! (Who was I kidding; road trips with four kids are anything but relaxing!) The downside was our ETA was 2 a.m.
A classic sibling moment occurs a few hours in. The 5-year-old is arguing with an older sister. Apparently they won't stop touching each other. I remind her to keep her hands to herself and stay in her space. Instantly I hear the little one say, "See this line here? That side is your space and this side is my space. Stay out of my space!"
Many hours later, we are enjoying an amazing lightning show (the first of many thunderstorms on the trip.) We have to make the kids turn off the movies in the back and watch with us. Soon, some have fallen asleep and all is quiet. I think I can finally relax.
Before long, two of them are having difficulties. We hear, "Stop leaning on me!" followed by, "But I can't sleep sitting up!" and then, "But you're hurting my back!" After about 30 minutes of tears and anguish, we have moved items around and set up what we think is a good sleeping situation.
One is not happy. "I can't put my feet on the floor!" We point out that she now has two seats to spread her legs out on instead. "But, I want my feet on the flo-oor!" She is now crying. The children that started out asleep and managed to stay asleep until this point wake up from the non-stop whining from this child. No one sleeps for the rest of the drive.
A few days later, we get a glimpse into maybe one reason there is so much bickering in the backseat. We are riding on 4-wheelers and come upon a dumping ground for trash and old furniture. The littlest asks who put all the trash there. My husband tells her he doesn't know, but whoever did it was naughty. "They need a spanking, don't they?" he asks her.
I don't think she knows what that is, but she responds, "No Dad, what they need is a pinch. What you do is take a little piece of skin and you squeeze really hard and pull at the same time! That's what I do to my sisters." The truth comes out...
The last two days of our trip was spent driving between and touring national parks. We logged a lot of hours in the car. It could have been really aggravating, but instead my husband and I listened in and enjoyed a lot of laughs. Here are a few of the things we heard:
"Gross, she's picking her nose!" And shortly after, "Stop sticking your fingers in my mouth!"
"Stop giving me wet willies!"
"Get your feet out of my face!"
"Get your feet out of the carrots!"
"Do you want a carrot? Seriously, I didn't do anything to it. I just like smiling and laughing sometimes."
"Don't cross that line"...the response..."Then you suck my toe!"
"Ooh...I like to smell my armpit!"
"If you have to go the bathroom speak now." One child fills in, "Or forever hold your pee!"
We had some classic moments and packed in a lot of fun, but apparently it was OK because my little one told me, "Mom, it's awesome that we're going to so many places in one trip!"
It was exhausting at times, but it's the snorting contests, loud laughing, squeals, pushing stuff onto each other, poking, and rainstorms that makes these trips what they are. Every family reunion I attend reminds me this is the stuff memories are made of and is a part of what eventually binds us together. Still, I arrived home happy that school starts in just seven days!
Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.