I think I’ve recovered from our cross country road trip. By “recovered” I mean I’ve unpacked, I’ve done the laundry, and Sweet Pea (2.5) and Lady Bug (4 mo.) have stopped thinking that 4:30am is a reasonable time to begin the day. In processing our great adventure, I will share what I’ve learned from the experience:
1) It’s actually really easy to parent when the kids are restrained in five point harnesses. Imagine all the things your kids get into on a normal day… sending random texts from your phone, “organizing” things (this is how a pair of shoes once ended up in our cooler), coloring on themselves, etc. None of this can happen when they are stuck in their seats. I almost can’t believe it’s legal to restrain a kid like that. It seems too good to be true.
2) Those cute songs your toddler sings, the made-up ones whose lyrics you can hardly make out, the ones that sound so sweet in her falsetto voice from behind her door when she’s supposed to be napping? They are not as cute when they are sung repeatedly from the backseat over miles and miles of Nebraska farmland.
3) You can’t drown out the incessant comments and questions of a toddler with a podcast. Terry Gross’s voice sounds nice when it’s at a volume appropriate for interviewing her guests, not interrogating or threatening them. Repeat after me: Podcasts are for naptime. The Beastie Boys at full volume is for waking hours.
4) Snacks are your friend. And by the fifth of seven days of such a trip, it won’t matter if it’s snack time, lunch time, dinner time, or Hammer time. You will pass the snacks with reckless abandon, failing to even mention “the magic word.” I’m no doctor, but if boredom is the diagnosis, snacks are the cure.
5) The grosser the public restroom, the more insistent your toddler will be that she join you in there, that you let her sit on the potty, and hand her a piece of toilet paper, despite the fact that she never actually urinates in the toilet. She will then touch everything with her pudgy little fingers and finally, with the kind of tenderness that would normally warm your heart, press those same tiny fingers to your lips. You will be glad you’re already in the bathroom because you’ll really want to puke.
6) You really do need to talk to your sister daily, despite what your husband might think. He will come to understand that there is no point in trying to prevent this because skipping a day means there will just be more to discuss the next day. He will learn that the only thing worse than listening to your end of the daily chat is listening to both ends via Bluetooth.
7) When you stop in a small, depressed town in Western Pennsylvania for a picnic in a desolate park and you get the distinct feeling that this godforsaken place is overrun by meth heads, and a couple of strangers approach you, they are not trying to sell you drugs. In fact, they just want to offer you the blessings of Jesus Christ on your journey. You will gladly take them because you can use any blessings you can get. (There is no way to know whether you have enough snacks to solve all the problems.)
8) It is possible to drive cross country with a three foot high chicken made of up-cycled oil cans, covered in a tapestry in your mini-van without ever letting your husband (aka The One Who Packs the Van) see said chicken. It is not possible, however, to hold the surprise in until Christmas. Your will is battered and broken by the time you unpack the car at the other end of the journey and you will have no choice but to give him his gift a tad bit early.
9) People might think you and your husband are crazy for taking a cross country road trip with an infant and a toddler. But you know that your husband deserves this dubious honor. He drove out with the toddler, just the two of them, to test the waters of the Epic Family Road Trip while you flew out with the baby at the beginning of the trip.