We just completed our eleven day, 3,500 mile driving trip out East to visit possible colleges for Elisabeth. She saw a dozen schools — not counting the one we visited by accident — and it was a great trip.
Timothy was a real trooper during the drive, but it’s not easy to spend so much time in a backward facing carseat.
He enjoyed when he was able to crawl around, like when he met Ellie, a fellow 19 month old who’s the daughter of our friends, Diane and Scott. He loved Ellie’s house and her toys, though the first chance he got to meet her, he skipped the pleasantries and just pulled her hair. Nice introduction.
As you’d expect, T’s schedule was initially thrown off balance a little.
But a few days in, I knew that he was starting to adjust when Timothy crawled into the bathroom of the hotel where we were staying. He brought himself to a stand using a small shelf and then promptly pulled all of the towels off the shelf and onto the floor. A minute later, he crawled over to the toilet paper, grabbed the end of the rolled and started pulling. Before I knew it, he had papered the floor with many yards of TP.
Ahhh, just like home.
I remember when our girls were first allowed to use calculators for certain math problems in school. This left me complaining that ‘when I was a kid’ we labored over every math problem long hand (or at least as my selective mind remembers it). I was afraid our kids wouldn’t really understand math – they would just know which buttons on the calculator to push and trust a machine to give them the right answer.
So fast forward that self righteousness to this driving trip. One afternoon, I was getting frustrated at our GPS for getting me lost in a tangle of Boston streets, when it hit me how little I ever look at a paper road map any more, since I normally just put the address into the GPS and trust a machine to give me the right answer. Hmmmm…
Earlier this week, while Elisabeth and Laura were visiting Smith College, Catherine and Timothy and I ducked into a Northampton (Mass) bar to watch a televised soccer game. Timo, who had been fairly quiet during that day, decided that he wanted to get a few things off his chest. His loud exhortations filled the nearly empty bar, and by the looks of the men sitting in the darkened pub, having a wailing toddler in attendance was neither a frequent nor an entirely welcome occurrence. To her credit, Catherine bravely stood by the Irish tenor while signaling to the onlookers that she was the sister in this painting and not the mother.
Catherine spent most of the 50 plus hours of the car ride seated in the middle of the back seat next to her little brother. While it’s cute to have the redhead try to get your attention by reaching his wee foot and hand out to you, we knew that this was not the roomiest, nor the quietest seat on the bus. And so in an effort to bridge the gap between labor and management, Laura and I agreed to take that middle seat from time to time. Somewhere in Connecticut we switched spots and I went to the back seat. Within 15 minutes, Timothy started wailing and I could feel carsickness coming on, and it suddenly struck me that we were due to stop and stretch our legs, and it was probably my turn to drive.
Most families have some rituals, like camping or big family dinners, that bring everyone together. We got in the habit years ago of taking long family driving trips.
It goes back to when Laura and I were dating long distance, and every few weeks one of us would make the 10 hour drive between Washington DC and Cincinnati for a visit. We got used to driving, and that’s why, twenty years later, our girls have been to 48 states and Timothy has already logged an average of almost one new state a month.
And while our friends can’t understand why in the name of Chevy Chase’s bad “Vacation” movies we would voluntarily take these car trips, these travels are some of the best things we’ve ever done as a family.
I should mention that our car trips are not all rainbows and unicorns. We have fun and have some great talks, but there is also a good amount of bickering, teasing, and oftentimes someone is giving the rest of the car the silent treatment.
But there’s an unspoken rule that on the road everyone needs to help each other, pull their weight and not be a jerk (for very long). And that’s not a bad thing for us to remember when we’re back home.
In fact, we probably argue more during the 7 minute drive from our house to the grocery store than we do during the 7 hour drive from Minneapolis to Chicago.
But the best part of these trips is taking us out of our home routines, slowing things down and spending time together – sometimes fun, sometimes not so fun, sometimes boring, but it’s all time together.
…and so we just walked in the house. The red headed road warrior looked around, got his bearings, tried to swallow a small block and then crawled to his room, pulled himself up on the changing table shelves and started throwing diapers and burp cloths to the floor.
Home sweet home.
Grateful for our car trips,