As seasoned road warriors we didn’t hesitate to travel to the coast with our then, 2-year old daughter Justice. Though we had already traveled to 48 states this was our first time with a child and to pull our RV. There would be a lot of time spent on the road so I mentioned to the husband that we should probably buy a portable DVD player. I figured it would make the long trip easier on the little one. He said it wasn’t worth it and that we had enough toys packed that she’d be fine. I wasn’t as confident as him.
On our way to the Gulf of Mexico with our truck loaded down with snacks, toys and CDs we thought we were set. But halfway into our trip Justice was tired of being strapped into her car seat and wanted out. Taking her fussing as a cue to stop for lunch, we found a nice park, wedged our truck and 5th wheel between a few trees. And the three of us moved into the RV. I made sandwiches and we watched the wildlife out of the dining room window as we ate. It was just what we all needed.
We stretched our legs, let Justice run around for a bit and after a few games of chase decided it was time to load up. She wasn’t too happy, but she didn’t put up much of a fight… till about 10-minutes later. Then we could do nothing to please her. At one point I moved to the back seat to try to sooth her, but nothing worked for very long. The last 2-hours of the trip were very stressful. I used that moment to remind the husband of my suggestion of a DVD player. That might not have been the time to remind him.
As we pulled into Rockport to visit my family and the local beaches we soon forgot about the stress of traveling with a little one. We spent several days on the shoreline letting her explore the sand and water. All three of us relaxing on the beach thinking things couldn’t get much better… and then it was time for another 4-hour drive to visit friends.
Justice was content for an hour or so, but the screaming started again. At one point I remember laying my head against the headrest and my right hand on the door handle. I suggesting to Tommy that maybe he could slow the truck down to about 55 miles an hour. I was pretty confident I could survive jumping out of the truck at that speed. He inquired which one of us was going to steer the truck then, because he was having the same thoughts.
Traveling with little ones can be tough. But with some foresight it can be fun too. When the twins came along many years later, we were better prepared. We no longer travel without a DVD player. Snacks are always easy to eat and clean up. And headphones are readily available. (For us… not the kids.) But it is more fun. Maybe it’s because there are three in the backseat keeping each other company. Or maybe it’s that we’ve learned to expect that kids don’t always see the drive as part of the fun.
Whatever it is we’ve adapted and found a way to keep from wanting to jump from moving vehicles. And the kids have learned that watching the world go by can be an adventure. Our son Marshall is perhaps the best at this. To him every cloud holds a battle scene. Every large truck or 18-wheeler is a monster truck. And music is cause for car dancing.
His twin sister Mercy isn’t as fond of the road, but does get excited when she sees others traveling with their pets and finds rain or bugs splattering on the windshield cause for ooh’s and aah’s. She’s also the loudest to sing songs on the radio. Knowing the words is optional.
And Justice, well, she’s found out that headphones and books can keep a big sister sane during long road trips. Her job is to keep the DVD player going, to pass out food to the little ones and if need be re-buckle seat-belts. As she’s stated on many occasions, “Being a big sister is tough.” But we do let her pick out the music sometimes since her taste goes beyond The Backyardigans. We appreciate that immensely.
The most important thing we’ve learned in the last 10-years of traveling with kids is you have to laugh. It’s a must. Even when you want to scream right along with them you need to find the humor in the moment. For us it’s the shear silliness of it all. The fact that toddlers and preschoolers don’t express themselves in words, but in actions; where our now 9-year old will complain about boredom the twins will cry and scream.
You can help curb those behaviors, but there’s really no way to just eliminate them. You still have to basically talk them down from the edge. And that can be funny or frustrating. Sometimes when the twins are in full blown car meltdown the husband will mimic their behavior with head thrashing and arm flailing. I do my best not to laugh, but the kids can’t control their reaction and the car soon erupts into laughter. At that point we can start talking about what we’ll do when we get there or start to point out new sights on the road.
It’s all trial and error and for us games in the car don’t always work. Perhaps when the twins are older we can start playing Slug Bug and I Spy. Till then we’ll just keep singing at the top of our lungs, watching the latest Pixar movie and hope that traffic is smooth and bathroom stops are infrequent. It’s just the nature of traveling with kids. But as the years go by the stressful parts fade from our memories and the impromptu sing-alongs remain.
That’s what life is. A collection of memories we get to pick and choose from. So be sure to make lots of memories so you can pick and choose from the best ones.