Road Trippin'

Ready to load up the Chevy Traverse? Not really.
In a few weeks the family and I will be making our trek from Texas to Pennsylvania, and I’m thrilled about spending the time together, especially since it’s one of the few occasions when my sons and stepdaughters are able to see each other. We stay at my boyhood home which is located in a rural part of the state; so the kids spend most of their days much the way I did at their age - catching fish, building forts, chasing fireflies, etc. Scattered throughout will be visits to local festivals and nearby points of interest. Photos will be taken, and videos will be recorded as we catalog these near perfect memories.

It’s possible a case could be made accusing me of painting an overly nostalgic picture of familial bliss shaded with Norman Rockwell-like undertones, but I assure you—never mind, you’re right. I am. I’m ignoring the umpteen thousand-mile drive there and back that sandwiches the week of carefree fun in between.

As opposed to said “carefree fun” (who am I kidding; said “carefree fun” has its less-than-carefree moments too), cramming five kids into a minivan for a two-day journey is like stuffing a bunch of cats into a mailbox and expecting everyone to emerge unscathed. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Improvised Sleep Mask
Early on the trip is fine. The children revel in the novelty at having what seems like an endless supply of goodies, games, and movies all within their reach to be consumed at their leisure. However, once these resources have been exhausted, discontent and restlessness set in. Start to finish, this takes about 30 minutes.

Of course, at 30 minutes we’re barely beyond the city limits, but still, that doesn’t prevent the inevitable question: “Are we there yet?” 

This sudden lapse in the children’s understanding of time and distance astounds me. Even when I point out that we are just now passing the mall where we do our Christmas shopping, the blank expressions of “so what” staring back through the rear-view mirror convey that any further explanation would be the very definition of an exercise in futility.

For some odd reason my silence in response to their question is interpreted as an invitation for them to register their individual grievances simultaneously. Any parent who has traveled with children for more than several hours is familiar with what I’m referring to.

“I’m bored.”

“I’m too hot.”

“They’re touching me.”

“I forgot my [favorite toy that they were told 6,000 times to pack].”

“I dropped my [blank] into [unreachable crevice of vehicle’s interior].”

Etcetera, etcetera.

It’s as if they believe I’m some combination of flight attendant, entertainment director and omnipotent god, able to scrounge up pretzel snacks, amuse their weary minds and exact justice on unrighteous siblings with a mere blink of my eyes (which, by the way, happen to be focused on the tractor trailer closing in on my tail-end). 

Being a veteran traveler, I’m accustomed to my childrens’ low threshold for discomfort during long cross-country hauls, and this has lead to some very advanced techniques in dealing with such situations. I ignore them. In fact, my ears are programmed to filter all the fussin’ ‘n a feudin’ into a form of white noise that allows my brain to submerge into deep thought. And should they crank “Whale Songs and Clamoring Children” to a volume higher than an inside voice, my headphones come in rather handy. 

The "Thousand-Mile Stare"
On one trip I succeeded in listening to Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys in it’s entirety … well, most of it anyway. Fed up with being ignored for the previous six hours, my stepdaughter proceeded to (purposefully I suspect) pour a full cup of hot chocolate down her front letting it pool in her lap. The hot cocoa wasn’t even warm, but her wailing scream scared me so bad, I swerved off the road. Lesson learned: Children are masters of escalation when it comes to demanding attention, and they will not be deterred by an iPod. 

This truth is also evident when the kids repeat their questions over and over hoping to have the validity of it confirmed via my response. At a certain point it’s clear that the incessant droning will not cease until it’s been acknowledged, which I eventually do but with standard, pat answers that restore silence without making any concessions in the process. 

Discontented Child: “I’m hungry!”

Me: “We’ll be stopping for lunch in a few more miles.” (And by “few” I mean anywhere from 50 to 100).

Discontented Child: “The sun’s too bright. I can’t see.”

Me: “Close your eyes until it goes down.”

Discontented Child: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

...Read what happens next at MAN OF THE HOUSE

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