Some days it sounds like the worst idea I’ve ever come up with. And yet other days, I can’t wait for the adventure to begin. Every year, at the end of July, I pack all three of my kids into to the car by myself, and we set out from our home in Connecticut to the see my family in the Sunshine State.
That’s right: Just me, my kids — who are all under the age of 6, by the way — and 1,200 miles of highway until our destination. (Oh yea, and our two dogs.)
Seems totally doable right? It is. Totally terrifying, yet totally doable.
Each time, I find memories of my own family road trips as a kid flashing through my mind. My sister and I would sit in the back of the car trying to entertain ourselves for what seemed like forever. There were no iPads, no portable DVD players — nothing but ourselves to keep one another occupied. In some ways I felt like I was being held captive; but truth be told, I loved every second of it. And I want my kids to experience the same.
Since moving away from my family in Florida nearly seven years ago, we’ve made it a point to go back every summer to visit. During the first couple of summers, we’d fly back. I only had one child back then, and it made the most sense both logistically and financially. But then we had one more kid, and then another, and flying got more and more expensive and exhausting with all three kids and just one parent. That’s when I made the call, and told my husband, “I’m just going to drive down to Florida on my own from now on.”
I remember the night before my first solo trek. I told myself that I wasn’t going to put too much pressure on the trip and that we would take our time as we drove. If we needed to stop, we’d stop. But that night before, I couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning with anxiety. I knew that I needed to get a good night’s sleep to be well rested, yet I’d wake up every 15 minutes and count down the hours until my alarm went off — which just gave me even more anxiety and caused me to stay awake longer. I couldn’t win.
The next morning, I awoke exhausted yet ready to take on the challenge. I downloaded an audio book to listen to, while the kids made some picks from the local Redbox DVD rental so that they could choose new movies and then we could return them as soon as they were done watching. (Honestly, that was the best $5 I’d spent in a while.) There were some tears along the way (mine included), but for the majority of the 20-hour journey, we actually had a blast. And every summer since, we’ve been making new memories along those same stretches of highway.
I put a lot of trust in both myself and in my kids for these road trips. I have to trust myself to remain confident, and also keep my cool in those moments when I’m this close to completely losing it. And I have to trust that my kids will lean on one another for help along the way. But we survive. We get there.
Our annual road trip isn’t just a less expensive way for us to get from point A to point B (because as we all know time is money and we spend a lot of time on these trips). It’s also a way for me to show my kids that sense of adventure that I’ve always had inside me. It’s way to show them the places outside of our little home in the Northeast. It’s a way for us to bond like we don’t get to at home. And it’s a way that I can show them that we can take on challenging tasks in life and overcome them like no other.
As we pulled up to my parents house on that very first road-trip, we did so with cheers (and yes, some tears of exhaustion, too). But we’d made it. For now, anyway.
Until we had to do it again to go home a few weeks later …